19
Aug
10

more thoughts on rice

Mark Kurlansky’s edited collection of WPA writing about regional foodways in the early twentieth-century U.S., The Food of a Younger Land, has three index entries for rice, all pointing to essays from the South. “Spanish” rice had spread as far as Mississippi by the Depression, but the most interesting of the three entries is the essay “Florida Shrimp Pilau Supper.” Rose Shepherd, the author, avers that the recipe came down to contemporary Floridians “from the early Minorcan settlers.” Kurlansky thinks this is unlikely, given that pilau/pilaf is common throughout the Caribbean, and in the parts of that region where there are large Indian populations, it is recognized to come from them. Florida probably got it, he thinks, from the rest of the Caribbean.

Like flatbreads and chili, I’m interested in pilaf as a cross-cultural preparation: Farsi “pulaw” goes to India (and Turkey, Central Asia, Spain, etc) as a Muslim dish. From India, it goes to the Caribbean and east Africa. From Spain, it goes to the Americas. From the Latin America and the Caribbean, it reaches parts of the Americas the Spaniards never spent much, if any, time in. Pilaf is everywhere.

The “Florida Shrimp Pilau Supper” essay’s assumptions about the dish’s origins reveal an interesting ranking of “others” in white Floridian society at the time. Given that the Black Legend of murderous Spanish Catholic zeal still exists today in Florida (born there at the sixteenth-century confrontation between Spanish St. Augustine and Huguenot Fort Caroline), the “early Minorcan” settlers can’t have been looked on too favorably. But they were certainly better to credit with the dish than other Caribbeans, whom you couldn’t even safely assume were actually white…


Pilaf

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2 Responses to “more thoughts on rice”


  1. 1 Æ
    August 19, 2010 at 21:31

    I love this kind of thing — more!

    • August 21, 2010 at 08:34

      Maybe tomorrow–I found out I was wrong (sort of) about the Minorcans. They migrated during Minorca’s “British century,” and there were not just Minorcans but also plenty of Italians and Greeks among them (though that can’t have made them much more popular at the time, and they came as indentured servants, anyway).

      And I’ve got plenty more on the changing distribution of rice consumption in the US.


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