Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Rice Cooker

I have now had my rice cooker for several weeks.

It is a Zojirushi ZCC-10 rice cooker with Neuro Fuzzy logic driven cooking.

I am pretty happy with it thus far.

Of course, while everyone tells me that rice cookers automatically do things perfectly, I think that if you don't know what you are doing, it only works mindlessly when you don't do anything uncommon. For example, I have purchased various types of rice since then bringing the rice cooker home. Dainty's Long Grain and Wild Rice, their Jasmine rice, which I have yet to cook; two type of rice from Lundberg, a California producer — their Wild Blend, which is a gourmet blend of wild and whole grain brown rice and Black Japonica, a field blend of gourmet black and mahogany rices. I am beginning to suspect that all of their rices are gourmet blends. Finally, some brown rice from another California producer, Tsuru Mai. An aside — I cannot find a website for the parent of Tsuru Mai, Nomura and Company although I have found numerous references to the company and its rice products.

The Black Japonica rice intrigues me. I have yet to cook it but I am looking forward to doing so. According to the company, the rice is grown mixed in the field. Years ago, an ex-girlfriend cooked some 'purple' rice that genuinely was purple and not particularly appetising to look at. Hopefully, the rice cooker will save me from any such discouraging meals.

And then there are the Lundbergs, who will do just about anything. Short-grain, long-grain, red, mahogany, black or brown -- if it's rice, the Lundbergs will breed it and grow it. When a planting mistake gave them a field of speckled red rice, they simply harvested it and sold the motley package as Christmas Rice, touting its ''mysteriously musky flavor.''

The one drawback to the machine is that it is fairly slow to cook complex rices. It generally takes over an hour to cook the Long Grain and Wild Rice as well as the Wild Blend. Then you have to let it sit for a while. One time, it took 100 minutes to cook the rice (plus the post-cooking time); this mangled my meal as I'd planned on it taking an hour and had cooked up a batch of other stuff which was then left to dry out and cool off. In my first attempt at the 'Wild Blend', I used the 'brown rice' setting and the result was somewhat soggy rice. For the second attempt, I used the 'semi-brown' setting and it came out well.

Part of what drove me to buy the blasted thing was that I feel that I eat too much pasta — which is probably my favourite food. A few months ago, I purchased some Uncle Ben's Spanish Rice but never cooked it. Then I bought something else from Uncle Ben, some kind of wild rice food product. I cooked it up and really enjoyed it. I find cooking rice on the stovetop to be more frustrating than I'd like. It requires me to pay attention which is something I am loathe to do.

A week or so later, I went to purchase some more rice and see what other offerings Uncle Ben had. While in the supermarket, I read the label for the wild rice product. It was chock-full of hydrogenated oils. Bleah!

I checked a couple of other speciality products from Uncle Ben and found they all had hydrogenated oils in them. This was a major downer. I've been eating Uncle Ben's Converted Rice since I was a young lad. I cannot remember not eating it. A decade or so ago, Uncle Ben's released some pasta sauce products. I tried them — they were great. Then they vanished. I guess I was the only one trying them out. I've always been a fan of their foods.

That day, I bought the Tsuru Mai brown rice. The only ingredient in the bag is, "California Medium Grain Brown Rice".

When I went home, I checked the Spanish Rice sitting in my cupboard. Amongst its ingredients was hydrogenated oils.

I find it both peculiar and frustrating that many of the major food producers seem to be increasing their use of hydrogenated oils when the health argument against them is almost overwhelming. I no longer buy crackers because I can't find any without hydrogenated oils. I stopped buying Humpty Dumpty's Cheese Sticks because they now contain hydrogenated oils. But, what the hell is a package of rice doing filled with hydrogenated oils?

As another aside, so many packaged nuts and trail mixes use hydrogenated oils for some reason. Bleah!

Anyways, after forty years of devouring Uncle Ben's rice, I think I'll look around at some alternatives. The rice cooker makes it easier to do this. Last week, I was visiting book stores — buying the Pasta Bible and perusing the Potato Bible and the Rice Bible. One of the interesting aspects to rice, as well as with potatoes, is that the food is available in so many varieties. I am now curious to try some Japanese pre-washed rice. Last week, I even bought some chopsticks although I have yet to try to use them — I am not always in the mood for frustration. Once I have finished some of the rice types I currently have, I'll try Dainty's Basmati rice. I have not knowingly tried it before.

While I was putting my various rice purchases away in the cupboard, and after reading the packaging for the Uncle Ben's Spanish Rice, I decided to throw the Spanish Rice away. I don't plan on buying any more and I won't even buy any 'pure' Uncle Ben's rice for the time being. I am not a fan of companies that force you to read their labels to ensure a minimal level of quality. "Buyer Beware" is not an effective sales method for a 'brand' company.

Yet another aside, a final one, this happened for me with Wrangler pants. I purchased a pair last year and wore them. They felt funny but … When I washed them, I saw the label. They were partially polyester. How can a jean company even think of trying to sneak polyester past their customers? I re-read the marketing label that I hadn't yet thrown away and saw no reference to the make-up of the textile. It was only when reading the manufacturing label inside the pants that I discovered this 'blend'. On the plus side, I have since purchase some pants from brands such as Savane and IZOD and don't feel that I'm missing anything without the Wranglers.

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