Rice:not just grain
March 31, 2009, 6:54 am
Filed under: essay, food, thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Until a tiny white hill hazed in its steam is served and I discern in it thousands of grain, only then, do the bowls of boiled fish, broiled meat and sautéed greens take on taste and meaning.


Rice for Filipinos is life, the dining table but the heart. Its life like ours has seasons that begin with planting, which also starts the cycle of producing and recycling. Right after harvest, grain is chosen for seedlings where most of it is hauled off for milling. But first the grains are beaten off the stalks and gathered un-husked. The stalks are left to dry in the fields as hay—when dried these will be used as bed for mushroom spawns or burnt one bundle at a time and soaked as shampoo. At the rice mill, the husk is separated from the bran: husk heaped on coals in an earthen stove keeps it warm; bran mixed into swine gruel enriches it.


Only whole dry grains are cooked; wet grain pounded by hand is topping for ice cream; grit is home-bred chicken feed. Rice should be served no more than one meal but leftover rice may be fried in lard and garlic for breakfast or it can be sun dried then fried for a crunchy snack.


Rice is cooked with two parts water but an extra cup can be scooped off while boiling, a pinch of salt added as healing drink for an upset stomach, and so is toasted rice boiled as coffee.


Boiled with chicken sautéed in ginger and garlic, rice becomes congee. Powdered rice makes a soft tasty cake if cooked with coconut milk and flavored with anise. Coarsely ground rice steamed in double boilers and topped sesame seeds pairs well with saucy minced pork cooked with blood paste.


Copyright 2009 by Alegria Imperial, an unpublished essay



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