Have you ever done something that seemed strange, maybe wrong, but you did not know why and you just did it anyway?
I really never thought about it growing up. My grandmother did it, taught me, and always seemed naturally comfortable doing it. It was one of my earliest food memories.
I knew, of course, that my grandmother was a tad off. Born in Edinburgh, she grew up on the island of St. Helena [yes, the place Napoleon was exiled, too], eventually taught piano to the Czar’s family in St. Petersburg, and ended up marrying a railroad engineer in Montana. I never got the story in detail, and now there is no one to get it from. All I have are those disjointed snippets of a life.
Those images and her method for eating white rice. The first time I sat down to dinner with Suzen and we had rice, I began to follow my grandmother’s habit. I put butter on my rice, which drew Suzen’s attention. Then I reached into a sugar bowl and took out a teaspoon of sugar.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Suzen screamed. Yes, she can scream.
I held the teaspoon above my rice, my hand quivering slightly. Yeah, I had always thought it was a little strange — white rice with butter and sugar — but it went well with pork chops.
I explained it all to Suzen. “People don’t eat rice like that, Brian,” she said.
“My grandmother did.”
“Gene pool,” she mumbled.
I’ve never done it again. I think if I tried she’d put a fork in my hand. But, in compensation, I have learned how to get rice with flavor and with sweetness. From Mexico, here is a side dish that pairs yummily with just about anything. Suzen served this with pork in adobo sauce. Chicken or fish are equally fine partners.
The rice has almonds for crunch, raisins for sweetness, and cilantro for the herby tones that rice always seems to beg for. It’s the perfect side dish.
I think my grandmother would have like it.
Cilantro, Raisin and Almond Rice
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 cups hot steamed white rice
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup snipped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a bowl, stir together all ingredients. Taste and, if desired, add salt or pepper. Serve alongside the entry or in a separate bowl. Garnish, if desired, with a cilantro sprig.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: Mexican, 2013
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens shot at F/2.8 1/60th second, ISO 3200