Food: January 2009 Archives


January 11, 2009

Ken Hirsch rightly nails me on the topic of Uncle Ben's:
All you really need to know here is that Uncle Ben's is owned by Mars, the company that makes M&Ms.
That actually doesn't tell you anything about the taste or nutrition of Uncle Ben's. You usually don't make such careless statements.

Your "converted" link goes to the "instant rice" wikipedia page, but the "parboiled rice" page is more appropriate. Converted rice has more nutrients than white rice. And, although converted rice is what made Uncle Ben's famous, they sell other kinds, too.

Fair enough. I was mostly trying to be clever, but I agree that it's not much of an argument. I generally find Uncle Bens "Original" to be tasteless and insipid, whereas a good basmati or jasmine is, as you know, a joy to eat. I've never had the other versions, except for I think the minute, which is ghastly. You're totally right about the wikipedia link. That's where it took me when I entered "converted" rice and I didn't check any further. I didn't even know about the nutrient thing. My bad!

I just looked in our kitchen and we have two kinds of basmati (one from India and one from Lundberg in California), three kinds of brown rice, and a 12-pound sack of Uncle Ben's Original, which my wife bought a couple of months ago when she was worried that the food distribution system might collapse at any moment.

I fully endorse this use of Uncle Ben's Original. I too would eat it after the apocalypse, probably after the canned tuna and freeze dried camping meals ran out but before emergency rations, MREs, and my neighbors.


January 10, 2009

Joe Hall is a man of good taste but his recommendations for making rice omit some important information:
  • Buy good rice. Depending on taste, you can go with either jasmine rice or basmati rice. Do not get Uncle Ben's, which has been "converted" so it cooks faster. All you really need to know here is that Uncle Ben's is owned by Mars, the company that makes M&Ms.
  • Buy a rice cooker. You can make perfectly good rice in a pot, but it requires a bit of attention to take it off the stove when it's done. Rice cookers automatically shut off when the rice is finished [technical note: the way this works for cheap rice cookers is simple and elegant, and makes use of the fact that a boiling liquid stays at the boiling point. There's a thermostat which automatically shuts off the heat when the temperature goes above 100C, indicating the water has boiled away]. A good rice cooker will then go into a warming mode. You don't need something expensive here. I think I paid $25 for mine.
  • You can make a variety of cheap and easy dishes by mixing them into the rice while it cooks. For instance, coconut rice by substituting some of the coconut milk for water, lentils or beans and rice by mixing in the add-in with the rice and adjusting the water accordingly. Lentils, rice, and a little spices (you can basically just throw them into the rice cooker; no doubt there's a more high-end prep, but this works fine) makes a fairly complete meal with about 5 minutes of prep time.
  • If you live in an area with minimal rice choices, look for an ethnic (Chinese, Indian...) food store, which will often have cheap, high quality rice in big bags.

That is all.