Eat Rice: An Imperial Dish

imperial rice

In my early twenties I had a friend whose motto was “Eat Rice.” After having lived and travelled through Asia, he was convinced that rice is not only the key to physical and emotional wellbeing, but that rice-eating societies are more peaceful. His theory was: Eat rice for peace.

Later, he opened a Thai restaurant in SoHo, in New York City. Its name, Kin Khao, means “eat rice.”  It was a fabulously successful restaurant; so much so, that he opened two more Asian restaurants, Kelley & Ping and Bop, each more successful than the last – and all with rice, and rice culture, at their base.

healing rice

Two summers ago, while visiting my friend Phoebe at her family’s home on Lake Como, one of the children woke up one morning feeling under the weather. Suddenly, from the women there was a chorus of “Mangia bianco!” Or was it “Manga in bianco”? Either way, this young girl, knowingly repeated, “Devo mangiare in bianco.”

Now, I had the good fortune to live in Italy and learn the language at one immensely beautiful time in my life. But I didn’t know what they were talking about. Phoebe explained, “The Italians believe that when you are sick, you should only consume foods that are white, as in rice, chicken, white fish, an apple, plain crackers or bread.”

This article (in Italian) explains it in detail, with an accompanying photo that cites: Riso, classico esempio di piatto per la dieta in bianco; or “Rice, a classic example of a meal according to the white diet.”

ariven rice

Then, last month my husband and I were teaching at Shakti Fest. I love to meet people there and learn about their reasons for attending. It usually reveals the passion of their heart, and causes a sweet soul exchange. This year, I visited with an Indian sage named Nandhi who surprised me with his vision for a more compassionate world.

Did you know that once cows are past child-bearing years they are no longer “useful” for their milk and often then tossed on the streets in India? (I don’t know what we do with them here. I shudder to think.)

Nandhi and a sustainable farming engineer friend of his have begun a collective in India,  where they gather these olds cows and allow them to roam free on the pasture. Not only is it a great humanitarian act, it is beneficial to the farm, as cow dung is one of the best fertilizers there is!

rishikesh cow

Nandhi’s project is called Ariven. The “Ariven Vision” creates, assists and collaborates to build global sanctuaries for retired animals, cows and oxen in particular. Each sanctuary grows biodynamic organic ‘intelligent’ vegetarian food while sharing its produce with the hungry. Their goal is to emulate this full-cycle sustainability for farms, while feeding hungry people worldwide. And it all has to do with rice!

Ariven’s crop is Imperial Rice. According to their website, “Around 1,500 years ago, during the rule of the Chera and Chola dynasties of Southern India, Imperial Rice was considered a royal food exclusive only to the royal family. And now it is available to all.”

So, maybe rice really is a way to peace.

rice and yogurt

rice bowl with asparagus

Rice is, of course partners well with any vegetable, and all legumes. Combining rice, beans and greens is a great fortifying/detoxifying dish, as all ancient people knew. But rice on its own or with a bit of yogurt makes a light, satisfying, anytime meal. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and especially any time you are focused on healing, or just want to give your digestive system a rest.

Healing Rice

Rice, 1 cup
Yogurt, half a cup
Black Pepper, fresh cracked to taste
Mint, a handful, torn

Optional: a handful of sesame seeds

Make the rice according to directions on the packet. Once it is done, spoon your serving into a bowl. Stir in the yogurt, crack some fresh pepper over it, add sesame  seeds optionally, and sprinkle with fresh mint. Tuck in and enjoy slowly.

rice bowl - healing foods

“White food” is usually not bursting with flavors. Instead it is calming. It satisfies the body’s need for nurturance, while going easy on digestion. Rice, in particular, has loads of B vitamins, along with magnesium, manganese, and selenium, so it is calming not just to taste but it’s calming to the mind, nervous system, an upset belly, and maybe, just maybe, an entire organism, even a community, a society, a world?

Rice is considered by Ayurveda to be excellent for Pitta Dosha, as it is cooling (remineralizing). It is also great for Vata Dosha as it is considered one of the prime sweet tastes, and therefore grounding, tonifiying, stabilizing.

People have been eating rice for thousands of years. It is a healing, healthy, nourishing grain. Even Paleo people ate rice, which has been demonstrated by archaeologists who have discovered tools for grinding and cooking. I have rice about once a week. I like it as a light, digestible source of energy – which is one of the reasons it is so good when you are sick.

Curious about rice as a healing food? Dr. Linda Kennedy’s Top 10 Health Benefits of Rice is a quick overview. Confused about rice? Wondering about White v. Brown? Here Ryan Andrews, RD explains.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 11.06.49 PM

eat rice

I have 2 bags of Ariven Imperial Rice, and will mail one each to two commenters randomly picked from below. So tell me, do you like rice? If so, why? What is your favorite rice dish?

Since every purchase of Ariven Imperial Rice supports the Ariven Community, an NPO with a vision for global sanctuaries for retired work animals and sustainable farming globally, I wish I could send one bag to each of you. But if you do believe in rice, peace and a world united by sustainable living practices, I invite you to write Ariven and ask for a sample. Or, join us at Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree this September to pick up a free bag at their booth and learn for yourself about the Ariven vision. It is a beautiful dream of a world where nourishment, bounty and peace prevail, for all.

Eat Rice? Make peace. Jai Ma!

45 thoughts on “Eat Rice: An Imperial Dish

  1. A quick and favorite meal in my household is simple, nutritious and made with rice: heat miso, bone or vegetable broth to almost boil, stir in a whisked egg or egg white and pour this over cooked rice. Add some ginger and spring onions or any herbs on hand.

  2. Interesting – and I’ve been craving rice pudding this week! Yes, I like rice – in Kitchari … sometimes top it with chili or soup, maybe a Stir-fry with veggies & ghee. So many possibilities. Always a staple in my kitchen.

  3. I love rice, white Indian basmati, brown rice, jade rice infused with bamboo. I am vata mostly and rice does calm me down inside and out. I love a saffron rice with cardamom and raw milk and cashews, cinnamon and a bit of jaggery. Thank you for all your wonderful posts and recipes.

    1. Thank you, Beverly, for so many inspiring ideas. I also love rice with saffron and cardamom. Mine goes with coconut milk and lime, but I love that you add cashews and jaggery. I bet cows love you! (They love jaggery…)

  4. Yes! Rice is nice! Eat it once, eat it twice, I’ll eat everything with rice!
    Seriously though my favorite is plain white rice with butter or ghee or a more substantial meal of kitchari. The recipe shared in your blog is promising to be a favorite this summer with its simple sweet, sour, and spicy goodness! Rice is indeed Peace. Peace to the world and peace to my body.

    1. Hi Nancy, there are directions on the package. It cooks just like ordinary rice 2 parts water to 1 part rice, but with an extra half part water. So, 2.5 cups water to 1 cup rice. It is so good and has more natural oils so needs nothing else added!

  5. I do love rice, and I usually eat brown. But white rice is more delicate and feels lighter. There is that thing though supposedly that white rice molds and brown rice sprouts. Not sure how that weighs in, but I’m guessing if you leave any rice around long enough something not so savory will happen. But there you have it…my few words on rice. Lovely pictures!

    1. Thanks, Robin. I’ve learned that while brown has that extra fiber, the husk that makes it brown can also hold any toxins involved in cultivation… But it is good, and if you like brown, I think you will like Imperial. Love to you ~

  6. Years ago when I was traveling in Asia I got really, really sick. I could not keep anything down and I distinctly recall feeling so weak I could barely move. Most of that trip I stayed in very simple, inexpensive hotels, but through a stroke of luck when I got sick I was staying in a really nice hotel. The front desk sent a doctor who spoke almost no English. She gave me several shots and a small packet of herbs, then she smiled at me, picked up the phone, and requested something in Chinese from room service. I had not eaten in over 24 hours and the thought of food was beyond horrific. The dish she ordered turned out to be something I had never heard of, ‘congee’ or ‘rice porridge’. It’s basically like oatmeal made from rice instead of oats. One look at the bowl of creamy whiteness and I felt my appetite return. I will literally never forget that bowl of congee. It tasted warm and calming and healing. It tastes like it brought life back into my body and woke up my mind. It was delicious and perfect.

  7. How interesting that I read your article today. I would like to adjust my breakfast to reduce pitta. Would the recipe with the yogurt appropriate for a breakfast during hot summer?

  8. I love rice. I have often said I could live just on rice, there are so many ways of cooking it. I love congee, biryani, fried rice and rice pudding. Yum.

  9. I absolutely love rice! I eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner with vegetables or just butter and pepper. It is so satisfying when I’m not quite sure what my body is craving.Leftover rice goes in soup or salads.
    One of my favorite ways to serve it, especially in the summer, is a rice salad with sugar snaps and lemon vinaigrette.

  10. I love this story! It made me so happy to learn about these cows and how they are being given a second chance at life. Now they can be useful, cherished and not forgotten. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us felt this way?

  11. I have been avoiding white rice because of its high carb content. Your blog was enlightening as always and reminds me strive for balance in all things. Hello rice pudding and sushi!!!

    1. Hi Gail, I agree that we don’t need loads of it every day – and certainly not with sugar, transfats, cheeses, etc. But a little with your fruits, veggies, sushi – or yogurt, goes a long way. Thank you for posting!

  12. Laura, do you remember that rice was the starch staple in our home (Nana’s and Papa’s I mean) when I was growing up? We didn’t eat much pasta – it wasn’t even in the lexicon back then. And while we did eat potatoes once in a while, more often than not it was white rice. I also remember that once we got to Chicago, rice was not the norm. Most people in Chicago were “meat and potatoes.” people and thought rice a bit foreign. And of course we had rice pudding now and then for dessert and yes, we did the white food things for our tummies when we weren’t feeling too well. Thanks for this lovely posting.

    XO, Momma

    1. Ayurvedic medicine, Italian healing traditions, and Asian wisdom is in my family history? (Did someone say Marco?) I did not know that, (Polo?) and look forward to learning more. Thank you Mamma divine!

  13. Dearest Laura, I am beyond excited that you shared this heartfelt piece of writing to restore rice’s glory and honor its tremendous healing magic! As you know, I grew up in Italy and “mangiare in bianco” was the rule that restored the tummy aches and general “blahs” in my family. In addition, my grandmother was a Mondina, so my rice legacy goes really deep. Le Mondine were women who worked in the rice fields in Italy in the 1900s and became “famous” for their songs as they used to harvest the rice and sing freely…My grandmother was born in 1903 on the banks of the River Po’, a major hub for the Italian Rice Belt. She started working in the rice fields when she was just a child and worked seasonally through both WWI and WW2. One of the recipes she taught me was “Riso e prezzemolo” (rice with parsley) cooked in a gooey soup. Forty something years later, I still reach for Riso e Prezzemolo every single time my digestion feels out of sorts…I think I will make some tonight to honor both your wisdom and my nonna;s. In gratitude, Tizi

  14. Rice was the starch staple at my beloved grandparents house in Ecuador when I would go live there. My favorite was when they would serve white rice with lentils cooked with cilantro and sometimes with a fried egg on top. My grandfather ate his rice with a spoonful of olive oil on it every day at lunch except when he was sick, then they would make him some sort of white rice soup with milk and little cubes of farmers cheese–anche lui mangiava in bianco! 🙂

    1. Anche liu! Che bello! I love this history, Alina. The food ways of our forbears are so rich, aren’t they? Such beautiful memories of love. Thank you, divine dazzling beauty.

  15. Théodore and Gisèle’s favorite food: rice. They love it any way I make it: pilaf, pudding, steamed. As a mom what I like the most about is that it’s a vehicle for healing spices. My children’s best medicine. Thank you for this lovely post.

    1. I love those two divine children, and love that they love rice. Of course you are such a heavenly Maman, making the most delicious whole foods, and even using rice to deliver helping spices as medicine. Thank you, Anne-Emilie!

  16. Oh Laura, you have highlighted the healing nature of rice so well. I think your friend is correct about the rice-eating societies being more peaceful and therefore healthier. And I love this project for retired cows and the full-cycle sustainability it supports. My heart goes out to all the mistreated animals in the world. Brown rice and sometimes Basmati and Jasmine are our staple bed for curries, Mexican, and bowl meals. I love rice in Kitchari as well.

    1. Katie, I think we are parallel people – we share not only similar (almost identical) food ways, but also such sameness of heart. Thank you for grounding so much love into the world as you do.

  17. It’s interesting to me how many cultures have rice as a staple. Growing up my mother is Italian and she would make Risotto, it’s warmth and subtle flavor was a joy to me. When our family was young, along with our budget I made a lot of dishes with rice and would turn leftovers into rice patties…strettttcch that budget! One recipe a neighbor who was raised in the south taught me was Hot Rice, a kind of condiment put on everything. Now I make a quick hot rice with leftover rice, using a little chicken stock and sirracha sauce when I have a cold, to clear the head and sweat out the impurities…and a little comfort for the tummy. 🍲

  18. my favourite dish is milk with rice with cinnamon. it a dish dear to me as it reminds me of my childhood and the time spent in the kitchen with my parents.lovely article by the way .hugs

  19. Jai Ma!
    What do you recommend as substitute for those who are lactose intolerant?
    I eat white rice weekly too for its gentle nature and ease of digestion.

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