National Rice Month began in 1991 when President George H.W. Bush signed an official proclamation designating September as the month. The president and the United States Rice Federation created this month-long celebration to encourage the consumption of this tiny, mighty grain in our daily dining. Today, we celebrate the grain responsible for feeding and nurturing more than half the world’s population. Regardless of your geographical location or income level, rice is a dish to enjoy with an endless number of culinary variations. A staple in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean Central, North and South America, and the Middle East, rice is prepared in numerous styles. Whether it’s boiled, creamed, stir-fried, steamed, or mixed, savory, spicy, sticky, or sweet.
Rice also has important social, religious, and cultural significance worldwide. If you find yourself dining without knowledge of this grain, consider these facts about some of our global rice consumers:
Asia produces and consumes nearly 90% of the globe’s rice. In Asia, most diets are based on rice and vegetables, so it is no coincidence that Asian diets are some of the healthiest.
The congee in the photo (below) is a rice porridge with tremendous popularity in China and nearby regions. It may be consumed for breakfast and be savory or sweet with toppings including mushrooms, pork, green onions, and vegetables.
In Africa, or more specifically in West Africa, rice was previously viewed as a luxury food. In the past two decades, this grain became available to the populace. A holiday celebrates jollof, a dish made of rice, tomatoes, and onions. This dish is prepared for social gatherings and special occasions including coronations, funerals, naming ceremonies, and weddings.
Latin America and the Caribbean are also strong consumers and producers of rice, which was brought from Europe to the New World. The growth of production since the mid-1900’s has provided many opportunities to strengthen local rural economies.
In many countries such as Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia, the consumption of rice as a dessert is very common. Arroz con leche, or “rice with milk,” is a delicious treat made from rice, vanilla and cinnamon. Some countries add raisins and coconut.
Gaining knowledge about the various ways that essential grains are utilized is one great way to become more culturally intelligent. What rice dishes are you cooking this month? Send us a note, we’d love to know!
Sharon Schweitzer JD, is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Sharon served as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.
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