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!