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21. All about Rice

The problem of rice is daily presenting interesting features. Shri Shankarlal Banker has already commenced experiments on unpolished rice. He writes:

"When formerly paddy was hand-husked, it underwent three polishes after the removal of the outermost husk, and many people indeed believe even now that that process has to be gone through. I therefore had some paddy got and, after removing the husk, had three polishes by pounding once, twice and thrice, of which specimens are being herewith sent. The rice that was only once polished was much sweeter to the taste than that which was polished twice and thrice. The first process of removing the husk was gone through by means of chakki, and the polishing or pounding was done by, using the village pestle and mortar. The rice which was obtained by merely removing the husk was in colour almost like that which was first polished. But it took a longer time to cook. The next time, therefore, I soaked the rice in water for some time, and there was no difficulty about cooking. The sweetness was all the greater. Some contend that rice that is not polished at all is difficult to digest. But this is not likely. The part that is removed by polishing contains vitamins and salts, which help digestion. If, however, this belief is not well-founded, you will perhaps procure authentic information. You will be interested to know that on removing the mere husk from 10 seers of paddy it was reduced to 7½, seers. Thus the weight was reduced by 25 per cent. On polishing three times it was reduced by 40 per cent. The paddy that I used for my observation was the variety called jirasal."

The only comment I would like to offer on this letter is that I do not think that any further medical opinion will help. The opinion I have gathered and reproduced in these columns is emphatic in favour of unpolished rice. But so far as I am aware, we have nothing in medical literature describing experiments of which Shri Banker has, like many of us, made the commencement. Proof of the pudding is in the eating; let everyone make the experiment for himself.

One caution, however, as a practised cook I would like to utter. Among the many domestic quarrels I used to have with my wife was one over rice-cooking. She would have every grain separated. I had developed into a dietetic reformer and I knew that that rice was not half as good as that which was well and properly cooked. Not an ounce of water in which I cooked rice was thrown away. But at that time I knew no distinction between polished and unpolished rice. I simply took the ordinary bazar rice and cooked it through till it became one mass. The reader will be glad to know that the quarrel ended in a victory for the reform, and the wife became a convert to properly cooked rice. The precaution about unpolished rice is all the more necessary, because the pericarp of rice, which contains all its richer constituents, requires to be cooked thoroughly. Therefore, if unpolished rice is soaked in cold water for at least three hours before cooking, and then well boiled, there is not only no danger of its proving undigestible, but it will be decidedly more palatable, as has already been found at Maganwadi, the abode of the Village Industries Association in Wardha. We have been having here what may be called half-polished rice, not the perfect variety that is described in the foregoing letter. Nevertheless, the rice is well cooked. Nobody has complained about its indigestibility. But, being far more nutritious than polished rice, which is almost pure starch, naturally unpolished rice, cannot be, and must not be, eaten in the same quantity as polished rice. This is true of all conservative cookery.

Harijan, 15-2-1935