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August 09, 2009

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Rodney Fong

I was wondering if you would get around to this. Rice is one of the things in food, mainly in Asian cultures, that seems the simplest and secondary in importance, yet not. There are distinct differences on how people view rice. In Hawaii, it will vary among local Japanese, local Chinese, and Japanese and Chinese from their respective homelands. I can't speak for other Asian cultures, like Korean or Vietnamese, etc., as these are observations from my own experiences. I was never much of a rice person. We had it every day, but it was the starch for the meal, and I felt secondary to the main dish. Then I went to the mainland and experienced "Uncle Ben." I used to cringe everytime rice was served in the food service, or unfortunately even at the Eating Clubs. Living on the mainland finally made me look in the stores and realize there were many kinds of rice, suited for different things. Still, I was "uneducated" until I became involved with a Japanese national, and then ultimately married a local Japanese girl, to whom rice was extremely important. I had to relearn the art of washing rice, understanding now that the washing of the rice was as important or more than the cooking of the rice. For some, it is tedious, for others, as I said, an art. It becomes more so when you are preparing rice for another rather than for yourself (although the ultimate would be to prepare it for yourself as you would otherwise). The number of times you washed the rice, the way you swirl the grains, the rinsing off of the unwanted rice grains and residual husks, all were important on how the rice ultimately turned out. It is tedious, but also a labor of love for the people being served. I came to appreciate that, but also appreciate it now that we are eating more brown rice for health reasons, since brown rice is less time consuming to wash. But on occasion when we have guests, I am always happy that my wife enjoys my rice. Humorously, she told me how they used to praise her younger brother on how good his rice was to get him to always make it. It made me laugh, but then wonder if she was really that sincere about my rice. Love the egg-rice picture. Tamago meshi is not something that I have ventured to eat, even my wife and her family ate it rarely, but it is gorgeous to look at. Love the story, Nance.

Phil

Yum. Good stuff, Nance. Keep going!

Fred Bierman

OK, this clinches it. You are a VERY winning writer. I may yet wash my rice.

Nancy Hachisu

For me it is fascinating to get Rodney Fong's perspective from Hawaii. Rodney is an old friend from Stanford/Toyon/Los Arcos Eating Club days. Like Rodney, I never was a big rice fan, though we ate it seldom in my house. At my friend Melissa's they ate it with sugar and butter. That always amazed me. In Japan people say that Westerners eat bread and Japanese eat rice. When I first came here, that irritated me a bit. It seemed so oversimplified. Don't we eat pasta, potatoes and other grains? We don't really eat bread at dinner (at least in our family). But I came to understand why Japanese would say that. If you have bread, you can make a meal. And for Japanese, if they have rice, they can make a meal. The words for food and rice are interchangeable: "meishi" and "gohan." I used to think of the rice washing as tedious, but no more. I decelerate, take a deep breath and quiet my mind. These days I crave rice (that's a new thing)--it seems such a clear and clean side on these hot, humid days. Though, you can see, I still think of rice as the side dish and not the main. I'm still a Westerner through and through. And Rodney, by the way, try cooking brown rice like pasta in lots of boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, return to pot, cover and let sit for 20 minutes before salting and fluffing with chopsticks. Uncle Ben's converted rice...takes me back. No wonder I didn't think much of rice.

Sterling

Im from Hawaii, and EVERYONE here washes their rice. I dont know why, its just something you are raised to do, and in turn raise your kids to do. Its tradition here. Noone questions it.

Mora Chartrand-Grant

I was recently introduced to your blog by an American friend who retired to Ichihara, just outside of Kyoto. What a treat to read about rice. As a Belgian-American who has a Japanese heart, I was thrilled to read about the love you put into cleaning your rice. My friends just don't get it when I gush over perfectly made rice. But they certainly love the rice I make in my Iga-mono gohan no donabe, especially the okoge. And who wouldn't love the okoge? I'm on a mission to enthusiastically educate anyone who is willing to listen that well made rice is truly a thing of beauty. You truly are a winning writer, Nancy.

Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Mora, your comment sent me straight to google...I never knew the rice crust at the bottom of a kama was called okoge. And you're right, it's absolutely delicious. Sometimes my husband cooks the rice in the big metal kama over a wood burning fire. Oh my god is that good, and the okoge is to die for. All of a sudden this summer, I'm craving rice a lot more than before. Maybe it's the weather.

I was an exchange student with a Francophone family in Wezembeek-Oppem outside of Brussels my last year of high school (a long time ago). My host mother bought the foodstuffs down at the square and the vegetables at the outside market. She had a warm soul satisfying-style of cooking. But then, I have a lot of great food memories from my stay in Belgium. Lovely to hear from you. Nancy

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