From sushi to risotto and from rice pudding to pilau, few foods are as ubiquitous as rice. A dietary staple and indispensable agricultural product from Asia to the Americas, rice can be found in Michelin-starred restaurants and family kitchens alike. Rice has played a significant role in society and the food economy as it journeyed from Asia and West Africa to global prominence.
Trade in rice was powered both by profits from high-status export rice and by the use of lower-quality rice in feeding countless labourers. It came to be used in kitchens around the world because the culinary traditions of slaves and indentured labourers were taken up by the cuisines of their host countries. The rise of rice continues today as newer immigrant communities arrive. The pressures of urbanization, and increases in marketing and advertising, have also contributed to the rise of a processed rice industry that is continuing to expand. The result is that the kind of rice one eats is a clue to the cultural and ethnic groups one belongs to, and rice in its many forms has been celebrated in cultural rituals, literature, music, painting and poetry. Chock full of delicious recipes from across the globe, Rice is a fascinating look at how this culinary staple has defined us.
Renee Marton interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC Radio.
‘Historical anecdotes and evocative descriptions of meals certainly whet the appetite for cooking up, or ordering in, rice for dinner. In broad brush strokes Marton recounts the movement of rice through the ages . . . the book does a nice job of illustrating the long global history of rice and the many ways in which cultures have turned rice into a food and a symbol. It is an accessible source on the past 1,000 years or so of rice history, nicely illustrated with colour photographs of rice meals, tools and historical depictions, from a sixteenth century Persian sultan receiving rice to an 1866 rice harvest in South Carolina. If you have never really thought much about where the rice you eat comes from, then this book will open your eyes to how global and cross cultural the story of rice has been, and will offer some alternative recipes by which to try a taste of this history.’ – Nature Plants
Renee Marton is a former chef based in New York who has written widely on food, cooking and culinary history.