The Power of Rice

While I was getting ready to wash the rice, I accidentally dropped the bowl of rice on the floor.  I was shocked.  I’ve never done this before even as a boy helping my mom cook rice.  There was rice everywhere – by the fridge, the stove – all within a 5 ft radius.  It took awhile to scoop up everything.  And in the process I picked up a bunch of dirt with the rice.  I had to wash the rice many times before I was satisfied all the dirt was gone.

While I was washing the rice and picking out all the pieces of dirt,  I remembered bits and pieces of stories about rice as I was growing up.  We were told to finish our rice because we were lucky to have lots of rice to eat.  I heard about starving kids that didn’t have any rice.  I was told my future wife would be beautiful if I ate all my rice.  There were also stories about how hard planting rice was.  The farmers worked so hard and we shouldn’t waste rice.  It was back breaking work.  At school, we even learned a song about planting rice.

Planting rice is never fun
Bent from morn till the set of sun,
Cannot stand and cannot sit,
Cannot rest for a little bit.

Planting rice is no fun
Bent from morn till set of sun,
Cannot stand, cannot sit,
Cannot rest a little bit.

Oh, come friends and let us homeward take our way,
Now we rest until the dawn is gray,
Sleep, welcome sleep, we need to keep us strong
Morn brings another workday long.

Oh, my back is like to break,
Oh, my bones with the damp still ache,
And my legs are numb and set
For their long soaking on the wet.

It is hard to be so poor
And such sorrow and pain endure,
You must move your arms about,
Or you’ll find you must go without.



photo credit:  Brad Collins

I didn’t know this until a few months ago but apparently the sun’s reflection from the water makes it even more difficult for the farmers.  It was so strange that one little incident triggered so many memories.



16 thoughts on “The Power of Rice

  1. What interesting memories about rice, Matt! I really enjoyed reading this!

    I heard the one about the starving kids, too…so, as a preschooler, I piped up and said, “Then let’s send them some food!” (Of course, I wanted to send them the foods I didn’t like! 😉 ) That did not go over well. 😦

    Dropped rice is like Christmas tree pine needles, glitter, sequins, and Easter grass…somehow once it hits the floor it multiples and you find it months and years later in the weirdest places! 😮 😛 😀

    I GREATLY appreciate all of the people who grow and pick our food. They keep the world feed and running.

    I know just having a backyard garden is hard work.

    HUGS!!! 🙂

  2. oh man.. i could probably write a hundred stories on rice. although it’s not part of my livelihood, it is for most asian societies, and it’s central to who we are.

    the picture you posted, i immediately identified it as cambodian rice farmers! actually there is even a folk dance in cambodian culture called “rice harvest” dance where we do all the movements that the farmers do – when i taught this dance, then i realized what back breaking, laborious work it is!

  3. Oh yes, rice and the people who pull the paddy out of the fields. It is the most beautiful sight for me to visualize… but I know it really is back breaking. I am glad you picked the rice up and washed it Matt, instead of throwing it away. A smaller person would have done just that.

  4. most people nowadays don’t understand the importance of a simple bowl of rice to the chinese culture. it signifies abundance and wealth. for those who come from a less privileged background, they would never waste a single grain of rice. not because of the stories they heard and told as a kid about an ugly partner, but because they understand what rice signifies.

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