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Season 3.3 : Rice

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Like wheat, rice is a staple that is found in many global food cultures. This season we will be exploring how and why rice is such an integral part of so many food cultures around the world. From newly formed strains to the resurrection of endangered indigenous varieties, we will examine rice through nostalgia, politics and commerce.

Like almost all of the ingredients we focus on, rice tells us the story of human movement. While it is impossible to know the exact date rice was first domesticated for human consumption, it is widely believed that the first strains were cultivated in modern-day China along the Yangtze River basin more than 8,000 years ago. Through trade and migration, rice travelled throughout the Asian continent and into Europe.

A separate rice strain was also cultivated on the African continent more than 3,000 years ago. When enslaved people were trafficked from the continent to European colonies in the Caribbean and Americas, rice grains were often braided into hair or sewn into clothing. In the face of almost certain death, rice offered the promise of life.

Short, long, sticky, brown, red, wild. There are over 40,000 types of rice and each come with their own particularities, tastes, aromas and ways to be cooked. These methods all carry a sense of nostalgia within their respective traditions. In the modern age, rice cookers that take the fuss out of cooking a perfect batch have gained cult-like status. Across the world, rice is both the blank canvas for a meal and also its most important – and difficult to master – component.

The go-to Sourced editorial meal is a bowl of rice with a fried egg and some simple greens. It has fueled this project thus far and we are excited to explore it further.

Reading List

The Cooking Gene, Chapter 13: The Queen - Michael W. Twitty

Disputed Grains - Max Loh

Rice and Resilience (parts 1 and 2) - Point of Origin, Whetstone Media

Food: a history by Felipe Fernández-Armesto - chapters 4: The Edible Earth & 8: Feeding the Giants

Taste: the story of Britain through its cooking, by Kate Colquhoun - chapter: Blessed Puddings

Iban Customs and Traditions, by Michael Buma - chapter 21: Farming. Here it is photographed, a very short chapter of a book no longer in print!

Iban Farming
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