A Lost Rice Variety — And The Story Of The Freed ‘Merikins’ Who Kept It Alive

Via Francis Morean

 

The story of hill rice…

A grain of rice, like a grain of sand, sifts through your hands with a mysterious and lovely sameness. Mostly white or tan, hundreds or thousands of grains pour smoothly out of buckets, out of burlap, into bowls, with a sound like small waterfalls. Rice seems so simple, really. And yet, because it plays a central role in world cuisines, these modest grains can carry the weight of history. Sometimes that history is deeply surprising.

Trinidadian ethnobotanist Francis Morean is living that surprise. The 56-year-old grew up in Trinidad’s Palo Seco hamlet, helping his mother and grandmother plant “hill rice” in the garden once the late-spring rainy season had begun. They would punch checkerboard-style holes in the ground with stakes fashioned from tree branches, and drop the rice seeds in. After harvesting, they would dry the rice plants on large cloths sewn together and laid in the sun. The dried rice plants were shredded by dancing and stomping on them barefoot, the hulls removed in homemade mortars and pestles. The rice stored well for years and was, says Morean, a cherished dish at the dinner table.

Read on at The Salt.

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