Rice is a single of the most essential meals worldwide, with everybody informed of its benefit all in excess of the globe but this pearly white cereal took a extensive time to turn out to be element of historic European cultures, with numerous several years passing just before its true homes and makes use of were being understood.
By Giorgio Pintzas Monzani
The solitary most cultivated cereal in the globe, rice is the most important food stuff supply for about half of the overall world’s population.
Gastronomically talking, it signifies the base of a lot of global cuisines, mainly of Asian nations around the world.
India now prospects the export industry, covering almost 44 million hectares of cultivated land, and it features the best amount of varieties of rice produced. Also historically speaking, the cultural homeland of the solution is identified in India.
The alimentary great importance of the grain is equal to its spiritual a person, earning a grain of rice nearly a countrywide flag of that place.
As we all know, this uniquely beneficial cereal took a long time to enter the historic European cultures — and even right after it did, it sadly took several a long time prior to its real houses and takes advantage of had been comprehended and exploited.
Conquests of Greek Alexander the Wonderful brought rice to the West
Alexander’s expedition was the to start with true globalization of human record: a journey of conquests that went much over and above his armed service exploits, it opened the doorways to an unparalleled cultural and mercantile improvement.
And it is thanks to his journeys that European territories discovered the use and utilization of many new forms of foods.
Through armed service strategies, the food provides of Alexander’s military ended up often missing, hindering the excellent leader’s quest to achieve the ends of the earth. The journeys of conquest of the young Macedonian king for that reason finished in India, on the mutiny of his army immediately after paying out a lot of yrs absent from their family members and homeland.
And it is thanks to this past end, India, that Alexander uncovered the importance and worth of rice not only that, he took it back with him on his journey dwelling.
Writings of Seleucus Nicator state Alexander fed troops with rice
Seleucus I, a general of the Macedonian military and later ruler of Alexander’s empire, tells how rice experienced a essential function in feeding the military at that time. According to his publish-Macedonian campaign testimonies, in the course of the previous period of their stay in Bactria, Alexander observed himself pressured to alter the consuming behaviors of his guys, and adapt to the food items of that unfamiliar land.
He appropriately introduced three new foods to them: sesame, dates and rice.
This final foodstuff experienced of class by now been cultivated and consumed for untold generations in Asian lands.
Impression on Western culture was delayed
Thanks to Alexander, rice finally arrived in the Mediterranean lands and in the Macedonian empire having said that, it was not right away employed as a typical food stuff element.
The importation of the cereal passed via Alexandria in Egypt, via the “Gate of Pepper,” the route of the spice trade at that time. Very, it is in point as a “spice” that rice was defined at that time — in other text, an unique ingredient to be applied sparingly in daily everyday living.
In the course of the initial centuries of its look in the West, the grains and cereals that were previously existing and cultivated historically in Europe ended up favored, leaving rice to be made use of only in medication and cosmetics.
The use of rice in medicine, cosmetics only was a main oversight
The main use of the cereal in individuals early days was as a treatment method against digestive and gastric problems. This evaluation was typical to quite a few health professionals and students of the time period soon after the Macedonian conquests.
The Romans had designed productive remedies to struggle intestinal swelling. Even Galen, the medical professional to the biggest Roman gladiators, utilized it to treat the many pathologies of these fighters.
But wherever did this principle appear from?
We have to get a step back again, exactly a century in advance of the activities of Alexander. Close to the fifth century BC, quite a few Greek and Persian travelers arrived in the areas of modern day Ethiopia, talking of a peculiar cereal, alien to the Mediterranean globe, with effective healing attributes.
It is thus this belief, that the rice plant was made use of as a medicine only — which would be the observe of medical doctors for generations to occur — that postponed its entrance into the realm of meals for Europeans.
The initially recipes begin to make their way West
Inspite of the initial misunderstandings about the new cereal in cooking, the inhabitants of the Mediterranean basin had inherited lots of recipes which ended up finally recreated in the Mediterranean lands, in accordance to Asian culinary testimonies.
For example, Aristophanes, the historical Greek author of comedies, in his verses refers to a recipe for a rice roll, which he most very likely listened to from stories and tales of Persian vacationers.
Even Sophocles adds to the story of rice in Europe, recording that Ethiopian peoples designed bread from rice flour.
Thanks to the journeys of the younger Macedonian king, Alexander, the Mediterranean territories turned a great deal additional aware of a globe which did not belong to them.
Despite the wonderful option to acquire and boost a merchandise so essential for several other peoples, the destiny of rice remained for hundreds of years practically unchanged.
In point, the total comprehending of the likely of the cereal did not come till its cultivation in Mediterranean countries all around the 15th century Ad, thanks to the arrival of the Aragonese in southern Italy.
This last but not least transpired pretty much a millennium following the prolonged trading journeys from Asia experienced created rice an pretty much area of interest products, a thing so precious that it was regarded as a spice.
Definitely, having said that, no time has been misplaced since then, specified the importance and omnipresence of this food in today’s European lifestyle.
We can almost truly feel like forgiving our ancestors for this oversight when we understand how considerably we delight in rice in all its many permutations these days, together with in Greek delicacies.
We are…what we used to eat.
Giorgio Pintzas Monzani is a Greek-Italian chef, author and advisor who life in Milan. His Instagram page can be discovered here.