Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Rice Mutiny (or the First Battle of Independence)

Belle has been sick (or is it allergies?) So, we have been on a bland food diet for the last few days. I love rice--jasmine, sticky, black, basmati. I love it all. It has been striking to me how much my child is not me or my husband but a third wholly different being. Her tastes take from mine and from my husbands (and from food availability in our home). But, in the end, her tastes are her own. She alone loves bread. This weekend she had a colossal tantrum when told she could have no more than 1 slice of bread for breakfast. And, she has never really enjoyed rice. So, after feeding her potato bread, potatoes, and bread for a day, I brought out the rice. First, just plain white jasmine rice.

Enjoying white rice by its lonesome to me is the equivalent of savoring perfectly blanched asparagus or roast chicken—it is about appreciating the flavor of a basic element of food. The love of white rice is not endemic to America, with all its chicken a la king and Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice culture. So, most people think of rice as an accompaniment to be doused with soy sauce or buttered up. Belle doesn’t know about those things, and so, it is apparently easy for her to eat rice in its plain glory—or so we learned this weekend. It started with one bowl of white rice for lunch. When I turned to get the phone, and turned back—1/3 of the bowl was in her mouth, much of the rest was in each fist, and the remainder on the floor. Apparently rice is good.

For dinner, I upped the ante. I made quick Kichidi, the Indian rice and daal concoction, made famous/ co-opted by the British Raj. It is an iteration of beans and rice with daal, often moong daal, that is frequently eaten for breakfast. The British fortified their version, Kedgeree, with hard-boiled eggs and fish, usually smoked haddock. My version uses brown rice and masoor daal (which cooks quicker than other daals.) Usually, I would add more spices, but as her belly was tender, I made a less spicy version.

Kichidi (for a baby)

Boil until tender
1 cup cooked masoor daal
2 cups water

In a separate skillet, sauté in very little oil
1 bay leaf
2-3 black pepper corns
1 pod cardamom
½ t cumin seeds

Once the spices are aromatic, add and continue to sautee
2 cups cooked brown rice

Add the cooked lentils to the spicy browned brown rice. Serve with soy yoghurt.

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