Rice Snob

Food for Thought

When my kid was in primary school, every year, I made a bunch of rice balls with Japanese moms for a school fundraiser. I woke up early and carried my rice cooker in one hand and a bag of white rice in the other. We made them in the school kitchen. I guess Japanese dads are not supposed to do that sort of thing; I was the only one among the giggling Japanese moms.

Every time they walked by me, they told me how good I was at making rice balls, which is to be expected since Japanese ladies are programmed to praise men for their skills. And, we Japanese gentlemen are programmed to feel good every time ladies do.

I overheard one of the moms talk about a particular brand of rice that she thought tasted awful. From her description of the bag, I realized it’s the brand I always buy. I kept my mouth shut because I knew she is from a region in Japan where they produce high-quality rice, and if I remember correctly, her parents are rice farmers.

All the fancy rice is produced in the northern part of Japan, and my parents are from the south. Since my mom grew up in a hotel/restaurant located near a fish market, she knows her seafood well, but I don’t think she knows much about rice. My dad’s family ate what is equivalent to white trash food, so, even to this day, he’ll eat anything cheap. Fancy rice, therefore, is not part of my vocabulary.

Since I moved to the US, I’ve only eaten rice made in California. It tastes perfectly great to me, so I had no reason to pay more for the rice shipped all the way from Japan.

The other day, I was looking for white rice in Chinatown and came across a bag written entirely in Japanese. I had never seen it before, not even in Japanese grocery stores. Quick Googling revealed that it’s from the region where the rice farmer mom is from. This must be the standard by which she measures all the other brands of rice. Just for that reason, I had to buy it.

OK. It does taste slightly better. The main thing is that the grains don’t burst, and the texture is like al dente pasta, but otherwise, the difference is fucking subtle. Rice is sort of like a blank canvas; you really have to be anal to scrutinize it. California rice is fine.