15 November 2012


Hot damn! The rice at Rancho Chico's is SO GOOD. One time I asked what
rice they used and where they got it from, and the waiter was obviously
uncomfortable and said he didn't know, but I know that he just wasn't willing
to tell me. I don't even care if they won't tell me. I am more than happy to
pay $3 for this mystery rice, and going to Colville is a pleasure in itself.
When I was about four or five I came up with a great joke that drew on all of the important elements of my life and wove them together into what seemed at the time the greatest comic query ever produced:

Q: What did Michael Jackson say to the bowl of rice?

A: Let’s eat!

Black or White was my favourite song at the time and I guess we were having rice for dinner. Who knows. Rice is such a boring food that it’s impossible to remember when you’ve eaten it. I had a 10kg bag of rice in my closet and now it’s gone and I guess that I ate it because it’s no longer there.

But the charm of rice lies in the ease with which it is forgotten. Like an undervalued friend, it’s always there for you. But unlike the undervalued friend trope, you won’t learn a valuable lesson in taking things for granted once they’re gone because rice will never ever desert you because there is so much rice in this world and it is so cheap. It's a food that, until now, I have never really had to think about. I eat it because it's filling and cheap and doesn't really taste like anything.

Here is a delicious plate of plain rice that I enjoyed in
Bogota. I was with my mum at the time and we had met up
with a girl I met in El Salvador a few months before who was
now living and working in Colombia. She took us to this
restaurant where both she and my mum ordered really
outrageous and enormous dishes, while I happily consumed
this and contented myself with the knowledge that I was
not a disgusting human being who hate disgusting things.

Honestly I don't know what else I can say about rice. I realise now that a lot of this post is about me eating rice in Central America. I guess that's because that was the time in my life when rice really took the centre stage of my diet. By eating almost nothing but rice, I was able to forget about food and stop worrying about what I would eat that day and focus on the important things, like learning how to smoke and, for the first time in my life, really enjoying casual drinking. Rice allows for great things to happen in your life without ever taking the credit for them.

Some Ways that I Like to Eat Rice:

  • With cheese sauce. Not with cheese sauce, obviously--that would be disgusting. But my favourite dinner is white basmati rice, sausages, and broccoli and cauliflower smothered in cheese sauce. I eat the sausages first so nothing touches them/is touched by them, and then I eat the vegetables. But once the vegetables are gone, there is still a pool of cheese sauce on the plate, and I like it when some of the cheese sauce touches the edges of some of the rice, but I don’t think I would ever like to push the rice onto the cheese sauce because that would be too much. It’s just nice to get a hint of cheese sauce with your rice because then you can remember and savour how delicious that cheese sauce was.
  • White basmati rice with mixed frozen vegetables and soy sauce. I don't know if there is anything else to say about this except that it's a relatively new development for me. I had always relied on fried rice if I found myself in a Chinese restaurant, and one day I finally realise that I could just more or less make it myself and avoid Chinese restaurants all together. Eating rice with vegetables and soy sauce makes me think that maybe I am growing up and broadening my horizons.
  • 1 part brown rice, 2 parts butter. When I was little and my mum was doing some baking, I used to lick the butter paper after she was done with it. Eating rice with tonnes of butter tastes like butter but feels like rice. It's like licking butter paper without the guilt of actually licking butter paper.
  • Plain. Eating plain rice with no butter or salt is a sneaky way of tricking yourself into having an ascetic experience without actually committing to asceticism. It’s like learning something meaningful from the Orient by looking up Buddhist prayers on Wikihow.com--which I just did because I thought I would be able to make a joke about Edward Saïd, but then I lost interest.
  • In a restaurant. I love going into ethnic restaurants in big, bustling cities like Vancouver or Colville, because I know that there must be at least one person who sees me enter and think, She must be a good person. She must really care about the world. Why else would she be eating at an ethnic restaurant? Ethnic restaurants always serve plain rice, and it's always the cheapest thing on the menu. And for some reason, it's usually way better than rice that I can make at home. Must be all that ethnicity.
This was kind of a weird moment for me because while I do (now) enjoy rice
with vegetables, I definitely don't enjoy rice with these vegetables. I don't even
remember what was in here... Corn, obviously, and I think some crushed tomatoes
that had cooked into the rice so it wasn't really very traumatizing, and, I don't know,
carrots? Anyway, like all of the other pictures in this post (with the exception of the
first one), this was taken in Central America and I was really hellbent on
experiencing new things.

Something to Keep in Mind:


Of the food I eat, I never expected that rice would be the one to betray me. But betray me it did. During my trip through Central America, I was too busy finding myself to ever even question where I was finding my rice. I lived almost entirely off of rice, and I never worried about how it was prepared because it's rice and it's really hard to mess up rice. But did you know that rice can go bad? You probably did because no one was surprised when I told them that I got rice poisoning and was so miserable that I wished only for death.

In Rio Dulce (or should I say Rio Not-So-Dulce?) I ordered a plate of rice from a street vendor just as I had done countless times before and would continue to do countless times afterward. I watched as the woman scooped out a large portion from a stainless steel bowl that was sitting on a counter and heap it onto my paper plate. But I had no qualms with eating relatively cold rice that had been warmed only by sitting out in the sun all day and was of questionable freshness. None of this was of any concern because with my restricted diet, food poisoning had never even entered my mind as a possibility for me. I ate the rice in the same way that I eat any rice--as a simple means to an end--and washed it down with a litre of beer. The afternoon and evening passed as any evening in Central America passed: lazy hammock reading followed by a rousing game of gin rummy, and this specific night, with a bag of hickory sticks which I did not enjoy in the least. When I was in bed, I broke out in a sweat and began to feel the waves of nausea wash over me. Convinced it would go away by morning, I committed myself to the task of falling asleep with great success. I was awoken at around six in the morning with an immediate need to vomit. So I jumped out of bed with the grace and agility of gazelle and ran down multiple flights of stairs to the bathroom on the main floor, certain that I would make it in time. And I did--sort of. Just as I breached the threshold of the bathroom door but had not quite made it to the stalls, I projectile vomited everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I was like a veritable fountain, spewing hickory sticks in all directions. When I had expelled what I believed to be everything that had ever been in my body and surveyed the pool of vomit that now surrounded me and covered the majority of the bathroom floor, I calmly asked the hostel receptionist to provide me with a bucket and mop to clean up the mess. I showered, I brushed my teeth, and I went back to bed. Mere minutes after crawling back into bed, I was once again on my feet and rushing down to the bathroom. This time I managed to make it to the sinks and clogged not one but three sinks with hickory sticks. After scooping the puke out of the sinks and into the garbage, I again showered and brushed my teeth and went back to bed. The third time I didn't even make it out of the room and instead just dry heaved and dribbled bile into a garbage can which, in retrospect, would have made more sense to use in the first two instances.
Upon arriving in Livingston, I remained in bed in the fetal position for one
day and one night until I finally felt well enough to greet the world, at which
point I was told by a nurse that I had suffered from rice poisoning because,
duh, rice goes bad.
The next morning I had to take a boat to Livingston and it was one if the hardest things I've ever had to do. I arrived at the hostel and immediately went to bed. Until I had an eye-opening conversation with a British nurse the following night, I had been under the impression that the hickory sticks had made me so sick. It was the first time that I had ever tried hickory sticks, and they gave me the distinct impression of being rejected McDonalds' fries that were too old, dry, and crusty to sell. But, you guys, it was the rice. It was that Rio Dulce rice that had been sitting in that stainless steel bowl in the sun for God knows how long. And what followed this revelation was an existential crisis almost as painful as the rice poisoning itself. I was force to reevaluate my life and the decisions I had made. Could I still eat rice? What would it mean to give up something that had, for so long, been such a central staple of my diet? How could I continue a trip in a region that depended on rice as much as I did and not eat it? Ultimately I abandoned all of these difficult questions and resumed eating rice with the same reckless abandon as before.

A plain bowl of rice
No one cares about it.
They're missing out. *

* See what I did there? That's a haiku. Get it? The Orient?

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