As we all know, rice in India is more than just an ordinary food; it’s a way of life. From morning until night, childhood to old age, our trusted grainy friend is always there.
When we failed an exam in school, or got dumped by our first partner, rice was there to comfort us. When our sister got married, or our favorite team beat their bitter rival, rice was there to share in our joy. Through thick and thin, good times and bad, we can always count on rice to lift our spirits. But as much as our companion knows about us, how much do we really know about this incredible super food?
For example, did you know that rice provides 20% of the world’s dietary energy supply. India alone produces over 105 Mt in a single year! In fact, rice is the third most popular food in the entire world, behind sugar and corn.
Of course, no one in the world eats more rice than in Asia, which consumes more than 90% of the world’s supply. Rice is so fundamental to life in Asia that the Chinese word for rice is the same as the word for food, and in Japan the word for cooked rice is the same as the word for meal.
Similarly, eating rice is so popular in Thailand that the verb "to eat", or kin khao, literally means, "to eat rice". Rice has even been found in medieval Chinese walls, where it was used to provide strength and stability. I guess you could say rice is very much "in-grained" in Asian culture!
In India, rice is associated with prosperity and the Hindu god of wealth, Lakshmi. In Japan, it’s associated with the sun-god Amatereshu-Omi-Kami, and in Thailand, where men aren’t allowed to enter rice paddies, the deity Mae Posop, who is considered to be the ‘mother of rice’ deity. Rice is a symbol of life and fertility, which is why rice was traditionally thrown at weddings.
In the Philippines, the rice production is as beautiful as it is sustaining, as evidenced by the Banaue Rice Terraces.
These lush patties are so breathtaking that they are considered by many to be the “eighth wonder of the world”.
What is no wonder, though, is how rice became just such an integral part of life in India, Asia, and across the globe. It is a delicious, nutritious food staple that has been around since the beginning of modern civilization itself. More importantly, now that you are so familiar with all things rice, you can feel more comfortable next time you and a friend are spilling your deepest darkest secrets over a hot bowl of chaaval. Dig in!