Why is rice white and what is the hype with it?

First cultivated by Asian farmers in 3000 BC, rice is a hot commodity and one grain that requires real mass production. An average North American consumes 22 pounds a year, while residents in some Asian countries consume as much as 300 pounds a year!

If rice was on the hotness scale, it would definitely be a 10. Why? Because wandering around the grocery store, you will find shelves filled with rice. All types of rice: long-grain, medium-grain, small-grain, white, brown, basmati and wild, among others (To be more specific, there are actually over 40,000 varieties of rice in the world).

But as someone who spends quite a bit of time at restaurants, the type of rice that I come across most often is white rice. On many occasions I find myself asking "What is the hype with it?"

When rice is harvested, it goes through a process of milling, which removes the outer grain husks. Brown rice only has the outer grain husks removed while white rice has the husk, bran and germ removed. Not only does white rice take additional steps to this preparation process, it also seems less healthy and less environmentally friendly. Not to mention, it is polished with talc and glucose after. Due to this, even more nutrients are lost, so to fix the issue, white rice is then sprayed with nutrients and advertised as "enriched." It was rich in the first place!

One explanation for the popularity of white rice could be that it is traditional. Classic. Staple. The other explanation is that white rice stores longer and is faster to cook, and this is important because rice feeds more people in the world than any other grain. Oh I get it...in the case of an apocalyptic event, it won't be brown rice that saves us.
One more (amateur) explanation is that white rice doesn't have much flavor and is easier to mix with other food.

While the rice question is (somewhat) answered, I am now wondering about white bread and pasta. But that will have to wait until next time, dear readers.


Alex said...

White rice is much cheaper too, so another reason more people will pluck down for it :)