While National Rice Month is a U.S. celebration, this holiday celebrates the small grain that is responsible of feeding and nurturing more than half the world’s population. No matter your geographical location, income or cultural background, rice is a dish to enjoy with an endless amount of culinary variations. A staple in Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and the Middle East, rice is prepared in myriad styles: boiled, stir-fried, steamed or mixed; savory, spicy, sticky or sweet. Rice is a true food hero, and deserves its recognition.
Rice also has important social, religious, and cultural significance worldwide. If you find yourself traveling without knowledge of the power of this grain, consider these facts about some of the biggest rice consumers in the world.
Asia is responsible of 90% of the globe’s rice production and consumption. In Asia, most diets are based on rice and vegetables, it is no coincidence that Asian diets are some of the healthiest in history.
The picture on the left is congee a rice porridge which has tremendous popularity in China and other nearby regions. It is usually consumed for breakfast and it can be enjoyed savory or sweet with toppings including
mushrooms, pork, green onions, and vegetables.
Smoked Crab Jollof Rice by Lou Stejskal from flickr
In Africa, or more specifically in West Africa, rice used to be perceived as luxury food. It wasn’t until the past two decades that this grain became available to most of the population. This cereal grain has become so important and essential that there is a holiday dedicated to jollof, a dish made of rice, tomatoes and onions. It is usually prepared for special occasions such as parties, ceremonies, weddings and funerals.
Photo taken by Cuponeando from flickr
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 strength 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 simmered in milk and cinnamon. Some countries add raisins, dulce de leche and even coconut.
Gaining knowledge about seemingly basic aspects of life, such as rice, is a great way to become more cross-
cultural. What rice dishes are you cooking this month? Send us a note, we’d love to know!
Sharon Schweitzer and Sophie Echeverry co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.
Sophie Echeverry is the corporate marketing manager and event coordinator at Access to Culture. Born and raised in Colombia, she’s a 2018 graduate with a B.B.A. in International Business and Marketing from Hult International Business School in San Francisco, CA. Connect with her on LinkedIn.