Rice is nourished by water, earth and wind
and transforms into gold. A seed that loves moisture and heat, it
demands the sweat of man. In many ways, it is honored like a religion
and guarded jealously and exclusively. In return, the earth gives birth
to a grain that is valuable and precious for human life.
The background of rice is unknown. Carried away by the
great winds, the wild plant grew in Chinese regions over 3000 years ago.
The scattered seed prefers small flooded surfaces to thrive. When the
ears are formed, the field water has to be drained. The rice plant can
reach 1.5 meters high. Its leaves are wide and its stalk ends in an ear
whose buds form only one flower. This manna of the gods, this source of
life is celebrated the world over. Though its origin remains a mystery,
the simple grain of rice is the basic food for half of humanity. Man has
learned to cultivate it on all latitude through the ages and it has
conquered five continents.
Man created the hoe using a simple wooden handle and a
rough blade to plough fields for growing rice. He dug furrows so narrow
that only a slender woman could hoe. Then came the idea of planting on
terraces in highland areas. This could distribute the water equally on
the small horizontal terrains separated by low walls to regulate the
heavy rains during the two months of monsoon. Among the 2000 varieties
in existence, the best known are mountain rice, rice from wet fields and
sticky rice that demands a flooded terrain during the early phase of its
cultivation. Rice plots have shaped the rural countryside into unending
chessboards throughout Asia.
Brown or white, wild or fine, rice has many colors as
well - the green of rice paddies, the gold and silver of the seeds
glittering under the changing skies, the burnished gilt of ripened rice
grains. In addition to supplying food, rice has many other uses. Its
stalks can be made into baskets and other things. Fermented rice becomes
alcoholic rice wine or sake which is a potent beverage for
drinking and cooking. Distilled rice yields a spirit known as arack.
Rice cakes of all shapes, descriptions and fillings are created in all
rice eating societies and cultures.