Rice pilaf is a wonderful dish and has been around for a very long time (although rice itself has been around for we don’t know how long). All anyone knows is that it’s full of filling carbohydrates, and it’s warming to the soul. Make it a rice pilaf and you get the delicious warmth of chicken broth cooked into it. It’s versatile and there are many recipes. It’s great with chicken….it’s great by itself to. Rice has come a very long way. In fact, no one really knows how long, because it was cultivated so long ago.
You may say, how long of a time ago. Well, put it this way, it has been talked about in myths on many continents. Images of rice have been found on pottery during archeological digs. The high belief is that the domestication of rice began in Thailand, Korat, or China. The reason they believe this is because they were all areas with a full range of plants and animals that were located near rivers.
About two million years ago the migration of the fauna happened and with the animals came the rice. They traveled to North China and that is where it ended up. Up there in Northern China were ideal conditions for growing rice. The heartland of rice cultivation was said to be in Southeast Asia though. The reason they believe this is from correspondence between certain groups.
Before rice was grown like it is now, rice was grown in forests under shifting cultivation. It was sort of like how wild rice is cultivated. There was also a different Chinese method of puddling soil and transplanting seeds. The puddling of the soil makes the soil less subject to water loss.
At this point rice began to cover all the continents. In fact, the only continent that does not perform rice cultivation is Antarctica (as you can imagine it is pretty cold there). In the 16th and 17th century rice was actually discouraged by physicians in Southern Europe because of outbreaks of Malaria. They believed that it was spread by bad air of the swampy areas (In Europe Mal=bad, and aria=of air).
When the European settlers came to America in the 1600s they brought rice and planted it in the South, which is modern day North and South Carolina. East Africans brought even more rice with them when they were brought to America as slaves. After the Civil War it was being grown in Louisiana and Mississippi although most Americans preferred bread and noodles.
Rice pilaf itself was first discovered in the history of Alexander the Great from correspondence that described his visits with the Persians. It was also served to him during his capture of Marakanda. He brought it back from Macedonia and then spread it through Eastern Europe. From there it took over the world. The rest is history.
For a traditional, moist, and warming rice pilaf try this delicious recipe:
“Alexander The Great’s Rice Pilaf”*
Ingredients: ¼ tsp salt, 2 tbs butter, 2 cups chicken broth, ¼ cup chopped onions, and 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice.
1) In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Cook the onion in butter for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) Stir in the rice. Cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in the broth and salt.
3) Heat to boiling, reduce to low. Cover and simmer for 16 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
4) Enjoy your piece of culture with some curry chicken. Yum!
* Base of recipe from Betty Crocker and I molded it from there.