Tuesday, March 22, 2005

the slippery slope

I did something else today I haven't done in a very long time: I made white rice. It's Calrose, actually, the shorter grained, sticky rice that's great with Japanese food and is a much less costly, but effective, stand-in for arborio if you like risotto.

I scooped the rice out of the canister and dumped it into the pot, and rinsed it three times. When I was in high school, one of my best friends was half Japanese, and she taught me about cooking rice. So, I always rinse it, and always rinse it 3 times. I like how the water turns milky-white on the first rinse. I feel like a pre-schooler stirring the rice in the cool running water, the slippery grains like sand. I like how the wet rice clumps up in the bottom of the pot. You could make sculptures of it, I think, like you would with silly sand. Wet raw rice has lots of possibilities.

One cup of rice, rinsed, one and a half cups of water, in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, and then turn off the heat and let it sit until you want to eat it.

I could make rice in my sleep, even though I probably haven't made it in 5 years.

There was a several month period of my life in my 20s when rice was the only thing I could eat that didn't give me horrible stomach cramps. I ate a lot of rice then.

Later, much later, I'd come home from work and have to eat something but not know what, so I would throw on a pot of rice while I figured it out. Rice cooked with chicken stock, then mixed with frozen peas, makes a complete protein and a very portable lunch. I ate a lot of that over the years.

Still later, when I could finally eat without feeling sick, I fell in love with food: tastes, textures, techniques... I was a single woman in a terrific city, earning good money and going out a lot. I discovered basmati rice and Indian and Thai food. Then I discovered risotto, and that was all she wrote.

I was the risotto queen. I made this incredible risotto with shallots, white wine, fish stock, shrimp and peas... oh, heaven. Even a simple creamy risotto with chicken stock and a little parmesan stirred in... how easy is that? There's something awesome about the way the little glistening beads of rice absorb the liquid, bit by bit, somewhere along the way transforming into themselves into edible velvet.

Unfortunately, my joy in cooking destroyed my metabolism. No matter how assiduously low fat I ate, I was always hungry and always gaining weight, or struggling heroicly not to. It was so frustrating, because I was really following all the rules, but I was miserable, and I was tired of having to buy new clothes in larger sizes...

Then I met a guy, we fell in love, got married, and moved West (the creeping weight gain came with us, alas). Then we had a baby, and 21 months later, another one -- and about six months after that, my brother-in-law told us about this diet he was on, Protein Power.

It explained everything. Every single thing I was struggling with, this book made sense of, and it told me how to eat for my metabolism. And it worked! It's still working, too.

And that's why I haven't made rice in so long. Rice was my companion through a lot of horrible times, and through some delicious experiences as well. But it can't be a part of my day-to-day life anymore.

I had some rice tonight, maybe a half-cup, not enough to do any damage, I'd guess. It was good. It was great, actually, having the sticky rice to soak up the tremendous spicy sauce from the pepper beef. [Step away from the rice, Joan!]


Can I do this? Can I make rice, oh, say, once a month? How about a pilaf, wouldn't that be lovely? Or maybe... just a little risotto? I don't have to make a vat, you know -- just 3 or 4 servings...

Is there a 12-step program for this?

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