The Rice Story

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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Something Fishy Tonight!

Hanwell Fish MongerThis blog gets hit by local searches, so allow me to recommend a new local business: the Hanwell Fishmonger, 111 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell.

They also have a website, http://www.hanwellfishmonger.co.uk/. Didn’t work for me when I tried, but maybe its a work in progress.

Just go in there. They offer the full spectrum of while and oil fish, cuttlefish and crustaceans. Their strength is in fresh whole fish, not so much in the omnipresent cod and haddock fillets. We had King Fish streaks and Sea Bream from them so far; very reasonably priced and delicious on both occasions. The boys behind the counter also know how to handle fish; I asked them gut and clean the Sea Breams for me, and they did a nice and neat job at it.

Supporting your local businesses rather than the big supermarket chains is vital for the upkeep (or restoration) of our town centres. A town and its community can’t thrive on used washing machine and used Rolls Royce traders alone, so I encourage everyone to support the local shops. Hanwell is not very glamorous, but offers a number of appealing local businesses: butchers, baker, grocers, florists, fish mongers, newsagents, hair dressers, a pharmacy, several cafes, an ice cream parlour, a great number of pubs and some restaurants, and many more.

One pound in every £7 spent in Britain is already spent at Tesco.

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Boosting the Economy

WeeCampSite While the economy isn’t doing so great, at least one business is busier than ever: the home conversion and extension business. People don’t want to sell-up and buy new homes right now. Putting money into the banks is not very attractive neither, but taking money out on credit is cheap, so many people chose to improve their homes.

So do we, although we decided before the interest rates changed so much.

Not that we can turn the economy around single-handily, but if you think about it, we are actually generating a lot of business: the builder and his staff, the suppliers of material as well as those doing the planning and the inspections. I’ve just been to John Lewis‘ kitchen planning and appliance department (and saw a lovely Neff oven and microware unit…), so some kitchen and appliances supplier will get some money. The garden will be a wreck and, at a minimum, the garden centre will see more of us next spring, …. The list goes on.

So, I am feeling double-proud already. All we need now is make swift progress, on both accounts, the economy and the building works. As to the latter, the foundations are cast in concrete and the drainage is being worked on. Concrete floor platform and walls should be coming up, and the whole thing should begin to take shape real soon. Will post a photo next week.

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