3 x 5 Family Moments

The rice was our staple. The rice was often burned. My Pops was probably pretty confused as to the true notion of divorce, but it was inevitable, as my parents went together like bleach and ammonia. She left with her luggage, a mishmash of ’70s suitcases, some hard shell and some soft. I don’t even know where my Dad was at the exact moment when the taxi came and went, but I know it was not in the kitchen. That was about to change. I don’t think Dad had weighed the albatross that would be around his neck in the form of raising four children, two very spirited teenage girls, a young bookworm and a 4-year old, overzealous, precocious rabble-rouser (me). I think the last thing to dawn on him that day was that we would have to eat. Like meals and stuff. It turned out OK, but if you think I was raised in a house that reveled in gastronomy, you have pegged me completely wrong. It was a spread of salami, canned corn, canned yellow wax beans, a loaf of Portuguese bread from the corner store, and the ever-present pot of rice, always a little maligned, never perfect. Often the rice was burnt at the bottom of the pot, as my Dad, an economics professor at the local university, was not culinarily dexterous. You know those note cards on which most families passed down their recipes through the generations? We didn’t have those. We did have the first microwave to reheat coffee and reheat beans, and the first IBM PC, but our house was rarely a place that evoked the beauty of food, the cooking of heirloom recipes from a trove of family history. I recently started thinking about how many ways you can make rice. It’s a basic staple but is prepared in so many different ways. I was doing a video shoot in NYC a few weeks ago, and the food stylist had a rice cooker. I commented on the rice cooker, and he explained that it was a gift that came with a card, a recipe card written by the gift giver’s grandmother on how to make the perfect rice. It was so sweet and such a powerful way to ensure that future generations would learn the tricks of the simple grain. As with most things, my research starts on Twitter. I shouted out for pictures of people’s rice recipe cards, the simpler the better. Some people wouldn’t give up the family secrets, while others were more than happy to share. The pictures were poignant: hand written cards, well worn from use like the best stained editions of The Joy of Cooking, showing nurturing love for their progeny. Recipes for simple biryanis, complex risottos, and basic rice from all around the globe. It made me want to write something down, to reverse the process, to give my brave Dad, who raised us all, a helping hand. So this is a rice recipe from me, so…

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