Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Brown vs. White

. . . rice, that is. My mother, who is a staunch white-rice person, recently visited us to escape the hotter-than-Angelina-Jolie climate of Fresno summers.

She's a vegetarian, who has primarily eaten South Indian food, lots of vegetables, lentils and rice. In the olden days, my mom ate well. People in her environment needed an abundance of carbohydrates to get through the day. Still, my family in India shovels mounds of rice onto their plates to weather the sizzling Andra climate. Most of them don't have cars and walk everywhere in order to get around. They burn what they eat, and they rarely have health problems.

Then, there's my mom. She lives in the 'burbs and drives her car everywhere, even if all she needs is a carton of milk. The food that she eats is now no longer viable for her environment. Her diet, from our current perspective of carb-consciouness, is too sugar heavy. She is a prototypic white rice addict, and it's hard for her to give up the good feeling that it gives her. I have on many occasions extended an arm and tapped at the vein, indicating the junkie-like hold it has on her.

It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the simple fact that she can't, in her primarily sedentary lifestyle, burn all those carbs off. She is teetering on the edge of adult-onset diabetes. And, she eats the worse type of carb possible: one with a high glycemic index. White rice spikes her blood sugar levels and requires insulin to come to the rescue immmediately. She might as well be eating candy. She's only 50, mind you. That ain't good.

Meanwhile, I've been singing the praises of brown rice for a long time, trying desperately to encourage her to try it. In much the same way that she refuses to believe that seaweed is vegetarian--we're talking about an old dog here--she has firmly stood in the white rice category. Only now, egged on by a recent weight loss and the positive effects it has had on her blood sugar problem, she has opened her mind to other kinds of slower-burning grains.

So, I made a Thai veggie curry and a pot of brown rice. And guess what? She loved it. But she is not the type of person who is so easily converted (no pun intended) to a new type of food. Unlike me, she listens to words of the familiar. She realized that brown rice was something her father used to eat before white rice became popularized in India. She also believed that white rice, or "polished" rice, was something the British initiated in India. My mother claims they processed the rice and then marketed it back to the Indians as a better product. Throughout her childhood, she remembers disdaining the old "brown" rice and singing the praises of white rice, much to her father's dismay.

Anybody familiar with this historical narrative? I'm curious to see what I can learn about this change from brown to white rice. I've looked around a bit on Amazon but haven't been able to find much about this time period in rice's history.


At 1:57 PM, Blogger نیکی said...

I still vote for white rice. for daily basis eating anyway.

but hey, now i have that chris rock joke about food-racism in my head:

"How come white rice is just rice, but brown rice is WILD rice"


At 7:35 AM, Blogger Anyesha said...

When we were growing up in India I remember going to visit my Grandmom in her quaint village turned town. My grandmom had a hearty disdain for rice that was not fine grained and white...the fat, ugly brown one was for peasants she said. My mom later explained that peasants (who always keep some of the grain they grow for themselves) don't polish and clean their rice in mills (its a costly process) and just separate the chaff and eat the grain...that is brown rice. And like everything else back home your social status invariably gets tied in to the fact that you can get your rice cleaned and shined by a machine.
My mom turned soft towards brown rice after attending many health seminars espousing the humble grain. But she always goes back to her beloved basmati before long.

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Pretty Sauce said...

How about Red Rice? When I was just in Sri Lanka with my consort MK, we ate our weight in red rice, which retains much of the bran and hull that brown rice does. I also have a vague memory of eating red rice in Southern India.

There was a museum exhibit that toured the country last year (I believe it is now in Hawaii) that was all about rice. It was on exhibit at the UCLA Fowler in Los Angeles and was titled "The Art of Rice: Spirit and Sustenance in Asia". I know they produced a worth-while catalog and I am sure it would present some info on the origins of white rice and the colonial implications behind it.

The Art of Rice

Regardless, I am really enjoying your blog and feel as if I am getting a very personalized education.



At 4:11 PM, Blogger Steve Austin said...

Tasty blog! Please check out my enthusiast wine blog.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Marketing man said...

You have a remarkable blog here! I really enjoyed the topic you chose to write about. I'm definitely going to bookmark you! I have a home business opportunity site. It pretty much covers home business opportunity related stuff. Come and check it out if you get time :-)

At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my food savor related site. It pretty much covers food savor stuff. I guess you may find something of interest.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger Tom Naka said...

Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my great west life health insurance
related site. It pretty much covers great west life health insurance
stuff. I guess you may find something of interest.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Thanks for you visit said...


I Really think you have a great blog here, and see you have a very high page ranking, I found this info out from this page. Try it out.

I have several pages of my own,

I'ts about femme Clothing. This site is in French language.
My second site is about Chaussures that is Shoes in french and bottes that is boots in french.

My Third site is about Chocolate that is made in France. The Frech language just drops to e at the end so it is chocolat

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Nice blog, I am bit new to this blog stuff but I really like it. I will definately be back. I have a
charm gardening gold that the horse lovers community just love. I should set a blog up on it that has to do with charm gardening gold

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this blog very interesting and I will come back often.
In the meantime I can recommend wedding candle decoration
This is a directory of all You need to find out about wedding candle decoration.
So please, don´t miss this opportunity to find out all You need to know in one place.
wedding candle decoration

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Eddie said...

That was a great post. I am always expousing the virtues of brown rice, and even my own family looks at me as if I were on another planet. Colleagues at work as well. Luckily my girlfriend is on the brown rice boat.


Post a Comment

<< Home