Sunday, December 10, 2017

History of Rice in the West

History of Rice in the West
For along time, western Europe regarded rice as another kind of spice. It was certainly reaching England before the middle of the thirteenth century; the Oxford English Dictionary’s first citation for the word is from the household accounts of King Henry III in 1234, and we know that between Christmas 1264 and the following Easter the Countess of Leicester’s household got through 110 pounds of rice, costing 1.5 pence a pound, a high price which explained the careful book keeping and the fact that the rice was locked in the spice cupboard.

At about same time, the accounts of the Duke of Savoy that rice ‘for sweets’ cost 13 imperials a pound, whereas honey was only 8 imperials.

In Milan rice was heavily taxed as ‘spice brought through Greece from Asia’.

The black death , which ravaged Italy from 1348 to 1352, and then recurred at irregular intervals as bubonic plague, has been credited with the introduction of rice to the northern Mediterranean.

The workforce had been reduced by perhaps one third, and the low yields of wheat and barley were hardly enough to keep people alive.

Rice was a high-yielding, energy giving crop that required far less labor per sack of grain harvested.

Gian Gleazzo Sforza sent a sack of rice to the Duke d’Este of Ferrara in 1475, with a letter telling him that one sack of seed would produce twelve sacks of food grain.

According to present day Italian writers, however large tracts of the Piedmont and Lombardy plains had been turned into paddy fields several decades before this famous letter, with the export of seed grain already strictly prohibited as a state secret.

In England, in 1585, rice stepped in cow’s milk with white breadcrumbs, powdered fennel seed and a little sugar was thought good for increasing the flow of milk in a nursing mother’s breasts. But by the seventeenth century rice was no longer a magical luxury.

A century or so later, it was being imported to Britain in large enough quantities to be considered quite an ordinary item of diet – usually milk puddings.

Then the availability of cheap rice from new possessions overseas drove this former luxury food further and further down the British market.

Rice was being taken to countries very remote from where it grew. Far, workers in nineteenth century Norway ate porridge of water and barley on working days, milk and barley on Sundays, but milk and rice for feats and celebrations.

In Finland, rice porridge was served as dessert in Christmas Eve, and Christmas lunch began with the leftover sliced thick and fried.
History of Rice in the West