Did you know that rice is one of the oldest foodstuffs that mankind has propagated for consumption? Indeed, the origin of rice and rice culture has been traced to the Indian subcontinent around 3,000 BC. That makes the cultivation of rice almost as old as written history (i.e. 5,000 years).
Eventually, rice propagation was introduced to the Far East (China and Japan) and Southeast Asia. Rice was also introduced to Europe but did not become as popular as other grains such as wheat. However, it did gain favor in such Mediterranean countries as Italy and Spain.
Although rice is valuable to the diet of half of the world’s population, it’s not exactly the most nutritious foodstuff around. This is due to the milling process that rice undergoes in order to look like the whitish grain were used to cooking. On the other hand, brown rice (sometimes called unpolished rice) is richer in protein, small amounts of fat, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron and calcium.
A downside to the consumption of polished rice in one’s diet is the possibility of getting beriberi. Yup, this virtually non-existent disease (nowadays, at least), results primarily from thiamine deficiency. As such, it would be much better if you get thiamine from sources, like say, unpolished rice.
You would think that we, Filipinos, are already aware of such varieties as wag-wag, milagrosa, etc. But did you know that there are—IRRI hybrids excluded—as many as 70,000 rice varieties? Indeed, there are exotic varieties like basmati for instance, that we are only just discovering as gourmands.
Also, there are many ways of saying “rice” as there are varieties. For instance, rice is known as arroz in Spanish, risotto in Italian, pilaf in the Middle East and in Creole. Also, don’t be impressed when someone says he or she will serve you morisqueta. Although it sounds as exotic and as tasty as paella, it’s not. It’s just boiled rice.