The Rice Story

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riceI find “the rice story” fascinating. It is, I am sure, not much different from the wheat story or the potato story, or any other tales of mass-produced foods, but rice may be closer to the low-tech end of the scale than many others. And, after just been to Vietnam, rice was on our table every day, so here goes:

You’d start by finding a water buffalo and ploughing the rice field. In the South, you may seed the rice directly into the field. In the North, you’ll pre-grow the rice plants from seed, and then re-plant every single one of them.

Control water flow, flooding and draining the rice field as necessary, while hoping that the new upstream hydro-electric power plant doesn’t cut off all the silt that you used to rely upon as fertilizer for centuries.

Eventually, when spared from the typhoon or other misfortune, you’d cut the rice and bundle it up, then carry the bundles to the nearest road (I tried, and found they are pretty heavy, and not at all comfortable to carry on a bamboo stick across the shoulders).

You’ll probably have to drive it somewhere, often using a man-drawn cart. Then you need to thrash it to separate grains from straw, then dry the grain alongside the road (also dry the straw for fodder and mushroom farming).

Now you sell it to a mill, where the skins are removed, while you prepare the field for the next crop. Someone else will now package the rice and ship it somewhere. Finally, someone somewhere in the western world drives to the supermarket and finds £1 per kilo of regular white long grain rice expensive.

Pretty amazing.

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