Indiana Daily Student

Column: White rice: The grain of life

I’ve had a very tumultuous relationship with white rice.

Back in September, I hated the stuff.

Consuming rice at least twice per day for two months made me loathe the thought of eating it for another day, let alone the rest of the semester.

I started coming up with creative ways to avoid eating rice without my host mom noticing.

Anything to minimize my rice intake.

In India, rice isn’t a side dish. It’s the main component of the meal.

The International Rice Research Institute — I swear this is a real nonprofit research group — reports India consumes more than 82.6 million metric tons of rice per year.

Andhra Pradesh, the state where Hyderabad is located, is nicknamed the “rice bowl of India.” The IRRI estimates rice constitutes 77 percent of all crops grown in Andhra.

During the past two months, I’ve rekindled my love of the staple crop.

My favorite way to eat rice is covered in my host mom’s dal palak, which is split lentils with spinach, with a bit of ghee to top it off.

White rice does have some nutritional value, contrary to what I once thought. It’s a complex carbohydrate and is easy for most people to digest.

When fresh vegetables are cooked in a curry and added on top, it becomes even more nutritious.

Twenty percent of the world’s calorie intake comes from rice. It’s easy to grow, cheap and versatile.

Rice is also a student-on-a-budget’s dream. University of Hyderabad canteens sell meals, which include several cups of rice and nearly unlimited curry, for 30 rupees, or 50 U.S. cents.

I’ll probably have consumed about 15 kilograms, or 33 pounds, of rice during my five months in India.

This knowledge would have disgusted me a few months ago. Now, I accept it as an essential part of the cuisine I love so much.

But in 20 years, rice consumption may decrease in India and across Asia.

Household incomes are rising, and rising incomes allow for greater dietary diversity.
Even so, it’s a bit hard to believe that higher incomes will substantially lower rice consumption.

Indian food wouldn’t be the same without rice.

­— kmthacke@indiana.edu

Follow columnist Kate Thacker on Twitter @KatelynThacker.

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