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Recipes From a Box: The Price of Minute Rice September 22, 2009

Rice in sixty seconds?  You’ve got to be kidding – well, yes, really it takes fifteen minutes, but who’s really counting?  (Besides me apparently…)  But, still, who could complain about being able to whip up a serving or two of whole grain rice in anything less than 40 minutes? (Again, besides me…).  The truth is, rice that cooks so fast has been processed – sometimes the grain of the rice is even cut open, requiring a re-enrichment of the grain to make up for the loss of the fiber and mineral-rich outer “shell”.

Processed foods come with many hidden costs, those to the environment and our health being the most outstanding.  That being said, I would be incredibly remiss to not mention the most obvious, unhidden cost of processed foods: the added monetary costs.  Compared to a bag of plain brown rice, the cost of pre-cooked rice in a box (or in individual plastic bags, yikes!) is significant.  The recipe below is for a box of enriched rice, which is doubly effective at lightening your schedule and your billfold.

Where Your Processed Food Dollars Go

Where Your Processed Food Dollars Go

INGREDIENTS: Enriched Precooked Long Grain Rice [Rice, Niacin, Iron (Ferric Orthophosphate), Thiamin (Thiamin Mononitrate), Folic Acid]


1. Process and De-Healthify Rice. Several brands of quick-cooking rice split the rice in order to make it cook faster, meaning all the “slow” parts of the rice – which are also most of the nutritious parts – are taken out.  Also, white rice is commonly used, which is also a less nutrient and mineral rich option, compared to whole brown rice.  The rice is cooked, then dehydrated, so that in essence when it is cooked again, it is really just a rehydration process.  This process is energy-intensive, and thus, costly.

2. Re-fortify the Rice. Lucky for all of us, the USDA has determined that these processed rice products still must retain a complete set of the required minerals… so they are processed back in.  So far, a simple, whole food, complete with its nutriontional integrity intact, has undergone two compositional modifications.  That’s not economical, or efficient, folks.

3. Box the Rice (with optional added flavoring). Of course, the packaging not only creates serious waste, it also costs more.  When you buy rice in bulk, it doesn’t have to be individually contained.  However, these rie boxes (and even more so when it’s already divided up into individual serving bags) add a significant expense to the final retail price of the product.

4. Convince People Cooking Rice is a hassle. In the United States, everyone knows that time is money.  This saying now applies to the kitchen:  saving yourself twenty minutes costs you a pretty penny.  Unfortunately, as you can see by looking at the divided dollar image above, the farmer is not the person collecting this extra penny: it’s the multi-billion dollar food processing industry.

5. Entertain yourself for 15 minutes while the rice rehydrates. I propose putting some pre-cut, pre-sauced vegetables found in the freezer into the microwave for the last three minutes, so you can have a complete meal.  Too bad the extra cost of the food cut into your wine budget…

EAT OUTSIDE THE BOX: Take the extra twenty minutes to cook brown rice and enjoy the benefits of a complete grain, and make some extra to try homemade minute rice (also great for camping!).