Rice defines me as a Japanese person

2 or 3 times a year, my mother sends me a big care package from Japan. She sends it by seamail, which takes forever, but that's because she always includes a bag of rice.

Whenever a bag of rice arrives from my mother, I carefully open the bag and make a small batch, washed and simply cooked in a rice cooker. Plain and unadorned. Just to confirm that yes, it was worth the hassle it causes to my mother, not to mention the debt I owe to her for it. And every time, I know, again, that it was.

The rice she sent is koshihikari from a small organic farm in Ishikawa prefecture. The bag is marked by hand with the date the rice was polished. The grains are clear white and translucent. When cooked, each grain is plump, separate yet clings delicately to its neighbors when scooped up onto chopsticks.

I'm often asked what ingredients and supplies one needs to get to cook Japanese dishes, and what are the keys to Japanese cooking and so on. I try to answer as well as I can. But I think I fail to get through this point: Rice is the key to Japanese food. It has to be the right kind of rice, and it has to be good rice.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that we are defined by the type of carbohydrate we fall back on. I like all kinds of starches - bread, pasta, dumplings, all kinds of grains, all kinds of rice - but the one I go back to, the one that makes me most comfortable, is Japonica rice. Give me a bowl of rice, and maybe some pickles or umeboshi, and I'm happy.

For the Guy, it's bread, no question; a rough country-type of bread (halbwiess is a favorite, as is pain paillaisse, a twisted mixed grain sourdough bread). Give him a loaf of bread, some cheese and maybe a little dried cured meat, and he's happy.

What's your fall-back carb? Does it define you in any way?

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