There is nothing romantic about the potato patch.
But give me a rice field any day and I get weak in my knees.Make it a rice paddy and it makes my heart melt.Stand me by a succession of rice terraces and I swoon.If only, like the countless painters and photographers had, I could capture the beauty of it all- the clouds reflected in the flooded paddies with tender shoots prodding and pushing and reaching through the moist soil towards the sun, the green rainbow of countless hues popping up in every new patch, the ripe roundness of the breasts and hats and hills, the graceful arches of bending heads of rice ripening in the afternoon sun, oh, and the arching grace of women in the paddies bending, reaching through life giving water, planting future in the thick fertile mud, and then at the other end of the cycle bending yet again collecting golden treasure of the harvest.
Then there is trashing and winnowing and carrying it all home.
These are not only hard jobs, not just back bending, but back breaking jobs, that can only be romanticized by us, spoiled bule, farangs, white people, who never had to do a day of really hard work in our lives.
Bali rice fields have been immortalized in many paintings and photographs and visitors still seek the iconic views of peaceful rice terraces underneath the iconic conical, at times not so peaceful volcanos.
While the fields are shrinking closer to the cities, there are still places where you will have them for your own.
No matter how many times or where in the world I come across a rice field, my soul is stirred by its beauty.
Rice was the staple, life and soul of ancient Asian civilizations. It is still so in farming communities all over South East Asia. Sure, the day begins and ends with a bowl of rice and grains of rice are part of every ceremonial offering, no matter how small or big. But it goes deeper than that. Because the large majority of rice is grown in water, an intricate system has been developed to distribute water wisely and fairly to all the farmers while protecting natural resources. The subak is more than a thousand years old complex system of irrigation flowing from the mountains to the terraces rice fields and down to the flatlands through the water temples and into countless canals. The priests are the gatekeepers and the farmers play their part in the relationship between the humans, the gods and the earth.Animals, too, are part and parcel; the buffalo helping to plow and the ducks snacking on the snails.
Dewi Sri, still worshipped in Bali is a Goddess of rice and fertility, an ancient goddess predating organized religion as we know it. Often one can spot her modest altars in the rice fields with fresh offerings to insure good harvest and prosperity for the family tending the land.
All this is making me really crave my favorite rice dish–Black rice with mango and coconut.
What is your favorite rice dish of all?