Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's the small successes.

I was going to talk about music today, but that will have to wait till next time, because this is SO much more important.

I made rice. Lovely, fluffy, just-right quick-cooking organic brown basmati rice from Trader Joe's. This is a cause for celebration. Why? I'm glad you asked.

I consider myself a decent cook, all things considered. I come by it honestly as my parents and both my grandmas were/are good cooks. My brother also is pretty handy in the kitchen. I'm pretty good at taking random ingredients and putting them together to create something edible, tasty, and sometimes even healthy. But rice? Rice has always eluded me. Me cooking rice is like Charlie Brown kicking the football. It never quite works out.

Yes, I follow the directions on the package. Yes, I let the lid stay on the pot. I do everything I'm supposed to do and I still get substandard rice, and yet, I keep trying, I guess because I am not going to be outdone by a tiny inanimate grain. I am bigger than rice.

A few years back, my mom got me one of those automatic rice cookers, and I still managed to screw up the rice. Even following the directions exactly, the bottom of the rice got all hard and crunchy, and I'm not talking about the good kind of hard & crunchy rice that is a delicacy in some Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cooking.  This was icky tough wet cardboard hard & crunchy rice. I e-mailed Oster customer service about this issue, and was told that "that's a common problem with rice machines." Oh, okay. That makes it so much better, I suppose. Whatever. (Anybody want a rice cooker?)

I started substituting couscous as a side dish. It's hard to screw up couscous. This is fine for most of the meals I make at home, but sometimes, you just gotta have rice. On my last trip to Trader Joe's, the bag of organic brown quick-cooking basmati rice called to me seductively from the shelf. "Try meeeeeeeee," it wailed. "Take me hoooooome." So with a deep breath and plenty of doubts, I put the rice in my cart. I figured I have wasted more than $3 on less noble pursuits.

All week I've been wanting to make channa masala for dinner to go with the garlic naan from Trader Joe's, and channa masala really calls for rice. With much trepidation, I took the bag from the cabinet and read the directions. "Ready in 15 minutes," the bag said. (Brown rice usually takes about an hour to cook, so 15 minutes is pretty ambitious.) Put rice and water in a saucepan, let it boil, turn it down, put the top on, blahblahblahblah. I know that drill. It's the same drill I follow every time and I still get crappy rice. But I endeavored to persevere, so I tried once again.

When the clock read 5:12, I took the lid off the pot, expecting to see either water still in the pan or a mass of undercooked chewy rice, but it looked perfect. Yeah, right, I thought. It's probably all chewy. I took a bite. And then the angels sang.

I had perfect rice! Not mushy, not dry and chewy, but PERFECT RICE! And it actually tasted good! Quick-cooking rice sometimes doesn't have much oomph, but this was great. I realize this is probably just a fluke - the rice gods are taunting me and next time will be back to the old status rice quo. But in the meantime?

Hell yeah, I MADE RICE.

Till next time - celebrate the small victories.

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