A pastor at dinner tonight was told there was Roti (flat bread) for dinner and he said "Man does not live by bread alone, there must be rice." Rice is the favorite food here in Jharkhand and in many parts of Asia. As I drove through the countryside today the rice fields were vast and plentiful. It was a good rain this year and now a good harvest. There will be rice plentiful.... and hopefully some of the local people will get some.
I was interested in what I just read about something Ferdinand Hahn wrote about rice back in the 19th century:
"Meals are taken only twice daily, one in the morning between 10 and 12 o'clock, the other in the evening between 8 and 9 o'clock. It is astonishing that the quantities of rice, the principal food, are devoured; but it is not surprising, for the time between the two meals is long and the nutrient which the rice contains is small. In times of distress, the Kol (Adivasi) also had only one meal a day and spurned nothing that was only edible in some way, roots, leaves and berries of forest trees were eaten. Only dog and cat meat he never eats."
He goes on to describe how rice is grown:
"All the Kols are passionate farmers, and everyone is looking to have as much land as he can acquire to live on. Even those who have a position, or is a craftsman or servant, will always strive to acquire some land which can then be worked by others. In January the occasional (rain) falls, and then the Kol farmer rushes to plow his field once or twice. For this he needs a very primitive plow, which draws only flat tracts; but as long as he has no greater and more powerful cattle, a deeper plow can not help him. In April and May he fertilizes the field with the droppings of the herd, which he has collected, or (after) burning the cow dung. He also uses the remaining (mud) of dried ponds and lakes to fertilize. He would not allow himself to be induced to use wet manure from the cattle stable, which would be (is otherwise) so advantageous in a hot country,
The field which is owned has ground water and can only be plowed in the hot season, in May. As soon as the first rain begins after the outbreak of the monsoon at the beginning of June, the upper field is plowed again, if possible, twice. Then he smoothes and forms it with a board. In the lower field, the rice is not sown, but planted, after a bed of plant-seedlings has been prepared. Only when the farmer does not have the means for costly transplanting of the rice-crops does he also sow the seed in the mud. In this case, however, he must again plow to loosen the sown seed. If he can not do this, and if he had not sufficiently seeded, he takes whatever the soil gives of itself; of course, this is only for a year after the field has been prepared beforehand. The Kol has three different types of field: the heavy marsh ground, which he calls nagra, which always has enough moisture, and is therefore always able to yield; the lower field, which still produces its fruit in an average rainfall, is called garha; and the higher arable land, which yields only with copious rain-yield, the chaura. The Koi farmer knows quite well which kinds of rice are fit for the different soils. In the nagre field, he uses the barka, the large-grain rice, the bansphul = the "bamboo blood" and the tangabent = the "axe handle". In garha he uses the "tiger claw", the "cucumber roots" etc. In chaura the most hope of prosperity is the "small", the "hyena eye" and the "ball". These three types of field are called don or dhoin, i.e. washed or watered, because they must always stand under water for the rice to flourish. A high field is called taur or dar, i.e. branch. On this, the best growing types are the goradhan = the light-colored rice, "the bony," the "brother", etc."
So if they once had such rich variety in rice why is it that every, almost everywhere in Asia, eat white rice? I found an article that explains the story of rice from a Filipino perspective
The practice of polishing rice is 150 years old and was done primarily so that the rice would last longer and be lighter for shipping to the west. When it was first introduced locally it was not liked, but the demand for polished rice was so high that soon the people began to eat this rice that has lost most of its nutrient value. But to get people to eat "brown" or "dirty" rice is very difficult. In the villages there may be some benefit of using the rice right from the farm, before it goes to the mill.
But most do not labor so intently to get their rice as was described:
"Harvesting the grain is done with the sickle, a laborious work in which men and women share. The former carry the sheaves on their backs to the khalihan, the threshing floor, which is usually made near the village by pounding the earth. The threshing is carried out in such a way that the grain is finally spread around on the khalihan. Wicken and similar plants are pressed out with pricks, which is also seen to by women. When the rice is threshed, it is cleaned by men by means of a shovel of dust and straw, and wrapped in straw bales, and driven home, or carried in baskets, and stored in large baskets of bamboo-braiding."
They will celebrate the harvest and I was given a sample of the "Chawal Ladoo" that is so popular during that festival
Still I will give thanks for white rice, for it is great to eat when your stomach is not doing well as mine was the other day. That and three bananas for a day and I'm back to normal. Oh and several liters of water with ORS (Oral Revitalization System powder).
These musings include the journey of my writing on the history of my great great grandparents and the travels for research to India, Germany and other places of interest.