[Sca-cooks] Period medieval rice, brown or white?

Dragon dragon at crimson-dragon.com
Thu Jul 24 09:11:04 PDT 2008

Stefan li Rous wrote:

>Most rice in the U.S., brown and white, is long-grain rice, which is
>to what
>I suspect you are really objecting.  Short grain and medium grain
>rices seem
>to be starchier, cook better and have better flavor.  Some of the health
>food brown rices I have encountered have actually been partially hulled
>brown rice with a lot of chaff remaining.  Nutritional--maybe, but
>textural and taste deficient.

The specific varieties of long grain rice cultivated and sold in the 
U.S. are relatively bland and neutral compared to other types of 
rice, but to say that long grain rice in and of itself is flavorless 
is a rather long stretch. Both Basmati and Jasmine rice varieties are 
long grain cultivars and are both extremely fragrant and flavorful.

The method of cooking is also extremely important in bringing out the 
unique flavor of each rice. Overcooking and over-softening of the 
typical American variety white rice is responsible for a lot of the 
dismal reputation it has in my opinion. When properly cooked, it has 
a good, clean flavor that is a nice base for other things.

Personally, I think every type of rice has a distinct flavor, which 
in some cases is pronounced and in others is subtle. I can't eat as 
much of it as I used to so I no longer have 7 to 10 varieties in the 
house at any time. Each variety had it's own distinct flavor and I 
enjoyed all of them from time to time on their own with no condiment 
or accompaniment. I also found that the flavors of a given regional 
cuisine most often worked best with the variety of rice from each 
region, though there were times that I found I liked a different 
variety better with a given dish.

>But what I don't find in there is clear evidence of whether medieval
>European rice tended to be brown or white or either. Presumably,
>there would have been a preference for white similar to that of
>"white bread" at least for the nobility. But it does take more effort
>to mill/polish away the brown coating, but again the nobles weren't
>unknown for doing such extravegances. Was there a technical
>difficulty in hulling/polishing the rice?
>Anyone have any comments?

Rice milling and de-husking has been going on in Asia for centuries, 
perhaps millennia. I don't see the availability of white rice in 
period as being much of a problem because it stands to reason to me 
that the technology to do this moved with the grain out of Asia as it 
was introduced into new areas. I'm wondering if there might be some 
period sources dealing with agricultural practices of growing rice 
that might shed light on this. I think it would be more likely to 
find an answer in such sources than in cooking manuscripts. As we all 
know, cooking sources often rely on what is supposed to be common 
knowledge in the time they were written, very often what was common 
knowledge never gets written down and may be lost to subsequent generations.

I'll leave this with one final thought... I'd be willing to bet that 
blancmange wouldn't be called blancmange had they been using brown rice...


  Venimus, Saltavimus, Bibimus (et naribus canium capti sumus)

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