Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rice, Rice, Rice

Question: What is your favourite food?
Answer: Rice, plain white rice.

I was surprised the first time I heard this response to the question of favourite food. But months later, I see more and more how important rice is to Bangladeshis. I will not make any judgments on whether or not this is a good obsession or not, but I will suffice to say that it does not involve a balanced diet.

I have heard some interesting comments about the rice here in Bangladesh. One was that curry here is only a way to make the rice go down faster. Instead of looking for the curry with some flavour, they just want the rice; the curry is just a method for eating rice. Another comment I hear often is, Bangladeshis cannot go to bed without a full stomach of rice, or they will not sleep. Therefore any Bangladeshi who goes out for fast food or Mexican food, will inevitably follow it up with a plate of rice before going to bed. The importance of rice here will never cease to amaze me!

This love Bangladeshis have of rice can prove to be a problem when crops are lost due to floods and hurricanes. The most often heard complaint I hear these days is "What is with the price of rice? I can't even afford to feed my family!" The price of rice alone, determines the poverty level of many people in this country. But mostly for the very poor. I read stories here of families living in slums eating vegetable peelings from rich neighbourhoods. They used to eat these vegetable peelings with their rice, but with the price of rice as high as it is, they can't even afford the staple food!

So I have eaten lots of rice here. And I am sure that I will continue to do so, everyone remember the importance of rice next time you pop some Rice Krispies in your mouth.


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