A bit about rice

Happy, happy birthday to my daughter!
This seems to be working pretty well for me to dig out old columns and reuse them. This one was first published in 2006, just before I moved to Yoakum, but, it did not contain the recipe for the shrimp salad!
On the 16th, my grandson was to receive his promotion to “Chief”, with his wife and his mother both being there to pin his new rank to his uniform. And, my daughter and I being there for the ceremony is the reason we traveled to Hawaii in September, rather than August as was originally planned.
Rice is one of the healthiest foods available to us. It is also one of the first solid foods fed to infants, because it is so easily digested. Rice water (the water rice was cooked in) is given to children with digestive problems.
Throughout history, rice has been one of the most important food sources for man. At the present time, it is a major food source for about two-thirds of the world’s population. According to archeological evidence, it is believed that rice has been cultivated for over 5,000 years. One of the earliest documented accounts is from a Chinese emperor from about 2800B.C. After that the cultivation of rice traveled across many lands and even continents until it found it’s way to the Western Hemisphere.
The original colonists got involved in the cultivation of rice by an accident. In the early 1700s, a ship, sailing from Madagascar, almost sinking from storms at sea, came ashore at Charleston, South Carolina. The captain of the ship made a gift of “Golde Seede Rice” to a local planter. The rest is history for rice cultivation in the United States. This type of rice became the standard of high quality throughout the rest of the world. Years later, by the time America gained its independence, the cultivation of rice had become a major agricultural business.
Because of lack of slave labor at the end of the Civil War, ravages of weather, and a lot of competition from other crops the cultivation of rice gradually moved toward the western United States. As soldiers returning from war were awarded plantations along the coasts, they became a new home for rice. The cost of labor was the only thing that kept the industry from expanding.
During the Machine Age, beginning in 1884, every aspect of life was affected. It took a wheat farmer from Iowa to point out that rice could be grown and harvested on the broad, flat, prairie lands of Texas and Louisiana, which had a solid type of soil that would support the heavy equipment needed to work in the field.
The Gold Rush of 1849 brought people to California from all areas of the world. They came from all nations, especially China, with over 40,000 Chinese arriving in California. Since their major food was rice, it became a necessity for farmers in that part of the country to begin the cultivation of rice. The Sacramento Valley was found to have a heavy clay soil in which almost nothing else would grow. They soon discovered that rice would grow profusely in this type of soil. After a few years, California became one of the major rice-producing states.
At that time, rice planting was labor intensive. Today seed is planted to exact depths by grain drills. Another method of planting is by seeds being scattered over either dry or irrigated fields by airplane. (Wouldn’t our forbears be surprised by today’s planting methods)? Water is kept to a depth of two to three inches on the rice fields during the growing season, and they are fertilized from the air.
When harvest time nears, the water is drained from the fields and the combines move in. The rice is cut, combined and funneled into trucks for removal to the nearest drying sheds. After this, the rice is usually sold to the highest bidder and goes on to the mill. At the mill, it is run through various sorting machines, shellers and polishing machines. The finished product is the rice you and I buy in our local grocery stores.
What we see as ‘brown rice’ is rice that has not been polished. It still has the bran hull in place, and is supposed to be healthier for us than the polished, white rice that we all use. Rice has been grown in the continental United States for well over 300 years. It is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and, last but not least, Texas! (There are still fields in the Victoria area that you can tell were rice fields at one time).
If you travel from here to Houston, or toward the coastal area, you are able to see rice fields and processing plants along the way, and there are thirty or more mills in the United States. The long, short and medium grains are all produced in various quantities, and about ninety or more percent of the rice produced in the United States is consumed here also. Over forty percent of the annual rice production is exported to over 100 countries around the world, at a rate of over 2¾ million tons yearly.
Rice is a really versatile food, and we use it in many ways. It is so simple to add one-fourth to one-half cup of rice to a pot of soup or stew to thicken it. If you parboil about a half-cup of rice, it stretches a meat loaf very nicely. Of course, we are all familiar with Spanish rice, fried rice at our favorite Oriental restaurant and just plain steamed rice, served with gravy.
There are as many ways to cook rice as there are cooks reading this column. My favorite, by far, is to place water in a pot, bring the water to a boil, add the amount of rice I need, bring it back to a boil and cook until done, drain well and serve. The directions on the rice box and in many recipes call for bringing two cups of water to a boil, stirring in one-cup rice, bringing back to a boil, covering tightly, reducing the heat and cooking for 10 to 15 minutes, remove from heat, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Some folks believe you absolutely do not remove the lid to stir or peek and others say it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether the lid is lifted or not.
Chicken and Rice Bake
1 can cream of chicken soup*
1 cup picante sauce (mild, medium or hot)
½ cup water
1 cup whole-kernel corn, drained (buffet size can, or a well drained 15 oz can, or 1 cup frozen corn)
¾ cup regular long-grained white rice, (uncooked)
4 boneless chicken breast halves**
Paprika or chili powder
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375ºF Mix soup, salsa, water, corn and rice in 9×13 baking dish. Top with the chicken and sprinkle with paprika or chili powder. Cover tightly with lid or foil, (I have used a metal cake pan with a metal lid, or a glass baking pan covered with foil). Bake about 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice has soaked up all the liquid and the chicken is cooked through. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and put back in the oven for a few minutes, until the cheese melts. * I have used whatever cream soup is in the cabinet, either chicken, mushroom or, our favorite, cream of onion. **I use a whole cut-up chicken or leg/thigh quarters instead of breasts.
Cajun Style Shrimp Salad
1 pouch (4-oz) Zatarain’s® Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil
1 lb. ready to use frozen, tiny shrimp (or you can use 1 to 1½ lbs fresh, peeled and deveined small shrimp)
1 cup uncooked white rice
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
½ cup chopped green olives
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup frozen petit green peas
1 cup mayonnaise (do not use salad dressing)
Add 1 to 2* tablespoons of the crawfish, shrimp and crab boil to 4 cups of water, bring to boil and add the frozen shrimp and leave water over low heat for about 30 to 45 seconds, just long enough for the shrimp to completely thaw and absorb the flavor of the mixture. (If you used fresh shrimp, bring mixture to a boil, add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are done). Remove shrimp from liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour uncooked rice into mixture and bring to a boil, cooking (and stirring if necessary) until rice is done, and drain well and rinse with hot water if desired. Add shrimp and peas to rice and set aside to cool to room temperature. Chop onion, olives and celery, add mayonnaise and stir to mix well; add to rice/pea mixture and stir to mix. Chill thoroughly before serving. *The amount you use will determine how spicy your salad is. If you like really spicy, use the full 2 Tbs., if not just use 1 Tbs. (I used just 1 Tbs. and found everyone liked it just fine). However, I took this to a meeting one evening and the lady across the table tasted it, asked what was in it and when I said “shrimp”, she hurriedly used her napkin and spit it out, as she was totally allergic to shrimp. Luckily she didn’t get sick and since then, I’ve always labeled the dish as containing shrimp.