Tag Archives: Rice

Bumper Sticker

P and I were driving south this morning with Mamu and Daddy. We dropped them in Philadelphia with P’s brother and circled back to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a wedding on Friday.

As P was driving close to the Connecticut/New York border he said, “Hey, C, here’s a bumper sticker for you.”

"NO Rice"

I’m not quite sure if this has some sort of other meaning, but I’m taking it literally. Although I hate to be thought of as the person who “hates rice”–because seriously I don’t!–I just would prefer to eat it only once a day, maybe 6 days a week, rather than every meal.

However, I did think this bumper sticker was photo worthy ;)

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Vindication!

As noted in some previous posts (Please, no more rice! and the Pasta/Rice Wars) P and I occasionally disagree over what to eat for dinner. Now let’s be honest… rice generally wins out. We eat far (far) more rice than pasta on a daily basis, however there are those days where “Ke khana?” or “What’s for dinner?” becomes a debate with one of us responding…. “[pasta/rice] again?”

So last night when we got home from work P was reading something on his laptop when he solemnly said, “Bad news Merf, come see.” I thought it was something serious, so I jumped up to read over his shoulder, and then I saw he was reading an article in The Guardian newspaper from the UK. The title and byline read, “The world’s favourite foods: interactive—Pasta has been named the world’s favourite food, narrowly beating meat or rice dishes and pizza, in a new global survey by Oxfam into the way the world eats today.” [emphasis mine].

Pasta is the winner—woot woot, happy dance.

Even though the Guardian vindicated my pasta pushing, I can’t help but admit I’m surprised. With the populations of China and India alone I’m shocked that pasta can beat out rice. Last night D, P and I were talking about it at dinner—reasoning that Latin American and Caribbean countries often eat rice and bean combos not to mention all the rice inspired Asian cuisines. That seems like a lot of the world pop right there. African countries have their own staples—like corn meal cakes (ugali in East Africa), cous cous (North Africa), or fufu (in West/Central Africa), and although the US and Europe eat quite a bit of pasta, it just doesn’t seem to be enough to beat out rice.

I wish the report was fleshed out more, with some links to the Oxfam study, but I’ll take my small victory for now, particularly with P’s parents arriving on June 29th, I think I’m going to be eating a lot of rice in the next few months.

If you want to see the article and scroll over countries to see the most widely eaten foods click HERE.

Oops! Spoke too soon… BCC actually had a more fleshed out article that you can read HERE which explains that after Italy Venezuela is one of the top consumers of pasta with Tunisia, Chile and Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia in the top ten (who would have thought?) and that Brazil’s favorite dish is actually Lasagne!

Maybe I can continue my happy dance. Pass the marinara please!

P in KTM

P departed last Sunday for a month long trip to Nepal. The trip came up all of a sudden. He had connected with some researchers at a conference in the fall, and about two months ago they asked if he would like to join them on an expedition to Langtang in the high mountains north of Kathmandu. The researchers will be collecting glacial ice cores, but P is planning to collect water samples for his work. It wasn’t until about two or three weeks before his departure that he actually had a ticket and was certain he was going.

He departs this upcoming Sunday for a multi-week trek into the mountains. I asked him to take lots of photos so that he could potentially put together a guest  post about his trip.

Anyway, P came online last night while D, RH and I were eating dinner. I had jokingly told P before he left that I was going to eat nothing but pasta while he was gone, to cleanse myself for a rice filled summer (pasta-rice wars, please no more rice). The three of us were sitting at the dinner table chowing down on large plates of pasta/veggies/marinara sauce when my googlechat popped up. The electricity had finally turned on in KTM.

I’ve discussed load-shedding before, but it still never ceases to amaze me that the capital city of Nepal lacks hours of electricity a day. As P said, “It’s better to ask how many hours of electricity did you have versus how many hours of load shedding, because it is a smaller number.”

But I guess one doesn’t need electricity to enjoy time at home with your family. Sitting on the roof in the fresh air drinking endless cups of tea, well, endless until it is time to go shopping. With so few days in the city before his expedition, his family has been taking P around on marathon wedding shopping trips. Buying my wedding sari, as well as saris for my two sisters and mother and a dhaka topi for my dad and various other guests, getting measured for his own wedding clothes, etc.

If any interesting stories come up, I’ll be sure to let you know.

The Pasta-Rice Wars

It’s the age-old debate in our house… what’s for dinner or as P so aptly puts it, “Ke khane?”

The two contenders on the field are generally daal-bhat or pasta and salad. With four Nepalis in our house these days, bhat is generally the winner.

Although last night AS tried a new recipe. She had been searching different cooking videos on youtube and found a chef making a salad out of pasta—but the pasta looked like rice! She had to try it! So she went to the grocery store and carefully searched the pasta aisle, scrutinizing each variety until she found it—orzo.

So last night we had soup and salad made from orzo pasta. P assumed it was a rice salad until AS announced to the table that the salad was, in fact, made with pasta.

“No…” P said, disbelieving, “It looks just like rice, just bigger and thicker!”

“Yes,” AS triumphantly smiled, “It looks like rice, but it’s pasta!”

P looked at me and said, “All these years you’ve been making pasta out of the wrong noodles! I’d eat this any day… do you think it would taste good with daal?”

“You could but the orzo pasta in a lentil soup” AS offered, “I’m sure that would taste good.”

So orzo pasta might be the armistice the Pasta-Rice Wars have been waiting for.

More on Rice

My sister forwarded something to me from the “Post Secret” community art project blog (“where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard”). She thought I could relate to one particular postcard this week:

I spoke a bit about my ups and downs with rice and daal in the post Please… No more Rice! Don’t get me wrong, I like rice. I enjoy eating rice from time to time. But where I start struggling is when I am asked to eat rice every day, multiple times a day, in large large quantities. Oh man, I’m finally starting to rebound in the rice and daal department after our trip to Nepal last summer, but for a while I couldn’t look at a pile of rice and lentils without having that sickening feeling of being constantly over-stuffed and heavy and on the verge of developing bulimia (I say that half jokingly, but I’m not sure how much longer I could keep up the eating stamina).

It is kind of nice to know that others out there can get sick of eating rice after a while as well (even “Asians”– vindication!!!)

And in the meantime, I have leftover rice and egg curry for lunch today ;)

Please… No More Rice!

First off, let me assure you, I love Nepali food. As noted before, I’m lucky that P’s national cuisine is so vegetarian friendly, and having grown up in a house with relatively bland food, my introduction to South Asian spices has really positively educated my taste buds. Veg momos, pani puri, mattar paneer, and masyoura (dried vegetable nugget curry) are some of my favorite foods.

We eat a lot of South Asian food, but we also eat a lot of non-South Asian food and dinner often turns into a negotiation. If usually starts with P asking, “what’s for dinner tonight?”

Me: “hmmmm… what about pasta casserole?”

P makes a scrunched up face: “nooo pasta… how about daal bhaat?”

Me: “Daal bhaat again? We just had that, what about pizza?”

P: “I’m really in the mood for rice…”

Me: “What about burritos?”

P: “Okay, burritos works for me.” (Oh burritos, always a good compromise. It has rice, and its spicy, with lots of vegetables and guacamole. Everyone is happy).

However recently I’ve been a bit faint of heart in the daal bhaat department, and I have to get over it. Rice and daal is a *major* part of a Nepali’s daily diet, in fact not liking rice and daal is probably a Nepali-American relationship deal breaker, the equivalent of “I think we should see other people.” I’ve eaten my fair share of daal bhaat, with my hand no less (as P’s dad says, it doesn’t taste as good if you eat it with a spoon), but over the summer I had a daal bhaat overload, and I haven’t been the same since.

daal-bhaat

Typical Nepali meal... with large bhaat mound and a bowl of daal

The first time I went to Kathmandu was almost five years ago (I traveled to Nepal to meet P’s parents by myself… I was so nervous I was literally shaking on the airplane, but that is a story for another day). I was only there for a few days and was able to eat whatever was given to me with relative ease (minus perhaps the first meal, when everyone was staring at me). It was winter time, the weather was cool, and I had just spent 5 months living in India and eating South Asian every day. P’s family gave me an enormous amount of food to eat, but I took it in stride, bistarai bistarai (slowly slowly) eating my way through the mountain of rice. I remember them commenting on how slow I ate, but not my ability to actually eat the food. Plus it was only a few days. People can do anything for a few days, right?

Then in the summer of 2008 P’s family stayed with us for 5 weeks. We had massive rice-filled dinners every night. Yet I had a trick up my sleeve… I had to wake up early to catch the 5:30am commuter train to work, and so I could have a doughnut or muffin in route, skip lunch (or have something small), and be prepared for the massive dinner. They never knew about my appetite-prepping.

Now we come to June 2009. P and I arrived in Kathmandu pre-monsoon. It was sticky and hot (not as bad as Delhi, but still). Maybe it’s just me, but the heat makes me lose my appetite. When I was a kid, when the weather was really hot, my family tended not to cook. We would eat something cold… like salad, or sandwiches, but mostly salad. The sliced vegetables, which often came straight out of the backyard garden, tasted so clean and refreshing.

One summer during college I lived with several Nepali friends in a second story apartment built over the garage of someone’s house. It was like an oven in there on most days, and when the temperature spiked, it was downright unbearable. I tried to reason my logic on the really hot days… “don’t turn the stove on, don’t cook, it will make it so much more hot in here. Let’s just eat salad or something.” AD, D and P—my chicken loving friends—would hear nothing of it… and we would spend the next few hours dripping with sweat in the apartment after cooking the meal.

So back to Katmandu in June… I’m sure the heat had something to do with it, and the fact that I just don’t eat that much in general, plus I eat really slow, contributed to making meals quite stressful. I am definitely familiar with the concept of showing love through food… and I experienced this in Africa, but as a vegetarian my eating habits were strange, and so food wasn’t forced on me as much as other foreigners I knew. P’s mom is a vegetarian so at his house I didn’t get off that easy.

MamuSortsDaal

Mamu sorts and cleans daal for lunch

Each meal was massive. A huge pile of rice (and I mean Himalayan mountain sized), a bowl of daal, and several types of vegetable curries. P’s mom would usually serve the first round, so it was hard to control my portion size, and once I was almost done, she was pretty quick at putting more on my plate. I got really good, really quickly, at learning the phrase, “Malai pugyo!!” I’m full!! I’m done!! But just saying it didn’t necessarily mean that I wouldn’t get more on my plate. I had to practically hurl myself over my plate to protect it from getting more food placed on it while begging “malai pugyo, malai pugyo!

That first week I tried to eat everything that I was given, but I started feeling so full at each meal that I literally felt ill. Some days I worried if I put just one more spoonful of rice in my mouth I might just vomit, and I started to wonder how long it could take for someone to develop bulimia.

I started dreading meals. Sitting at the kitchen table felt like I was going into battle. I couldn’t eat any street food while out in town during the day because I just knew that there were massive meals waiting for me back at P’s house. Visiting extended relatives became painful because each visit required that I drink at least a cup of milk tea and at least a portion of a large plate of snacks. Every bite brought dread that I wouldn’t be able to finish my plate of food at dinner.

Whats worse, after a while I noticed that the family members were saying to each other in Nepali at the kitchen table, “she doesn’t like our food… she doesn’t like rice.” I would protest (in Nepali), “but I do, I do like rice, I just can’t eat this much!”

RHeats

P's dad, RH and P eating a candle-lit dinner during one of Kathmandu's many electrical blackouts

I tried to convince P’s family that if you don’t grow up eating rice every day of your life you can eat less rice and feel full. In P’s family they think that if you don’t eat rice it isn’t a “real meal” and P has told me stories of his grandfather going to wedding receptions only to come home and eat more rice because he didn’t feel full enough at the ceremony. I think P’s mom and I almost started reaching an understanding about rice portions when our friend RH (our Irish neighbor) came to join us on our Everest trek. Even back in America RH’s appetite is legendary, and here he was, sitting at P’s kitchen table, chowing down on the mountain of rice and then…unbelievable… asking for seconds! There went my whities-can-eat-less-rice theory out the freaking window!

BhaatOnTrek

P and RH eat daal bhaat along our trekking route. If you order daal bhaat you get unlimited refills, much to RH's and P's delight

One day I kind of freaked out a little at the table. I thought if I had rice, I would just be sick, so I begged to eat cucumber and mango. That’s all I wanted. Sliced cucumber and mango. It was probably the strangest lunch request ever made in their kitchen. “You just want cucumber and mango? No rice? Do you have a fever?” Nooo… I just need fresh uncooked vegetables. I need something that isn’t a starch today.

Shortly thereafter P and I left for our trek. I was so happy not to be force fed that I practically ate nothing for the next two days. I felt like I was being cleansed. I lost my appetite for most of the trek probably due to altitude anyway. By the time I came off the mountain I felt refreshed and empty. It was a nice feeling.

EatsTooMuchRice

Me, feigning death, after eating another massive rice-filled lunch

Back in Kathmandu I started requesting smaller and smaller portions of rice. P’s mom would complain that I eat the “rice of a 5 year old” but at least it helped me to get dinner down.

When we returned to America the last thing I wanted was to see a plate of rice and daal. I’ve eaten the combo since, but it has quickly dropped from being a tasty food to being a somewhat dreaded food in my mind. Every time I think of it I think about that over-stuffed-I-think-I’m-gonna-vomit feeling I had at P’s kitchen table. I’m hoping if I take a little break from it, then I’ll feel better about daal bhaat again, and hopefully I’ll forget that sinking awful puke-y feeling.

I’m happy to eat rice, as long as it is the “rice of a 5 year old.”