Part 1: Rice
The fasting element of Lent made me think about what the majority of the world’s population has always eaten, which is a starch based diet with the addition of seasonal vegetables and fruits. A quick look at the omnipresent Wikipedia shows that the three most important staple crops for homo sapiens are rice, wheat and corn, in that order. Rice just edges out wheat currently, providing 20% of the human energy supply. But I think that if you look at the long history of rice cultivation over large areas of Asia you could argue that rice is the most important human food.
Out of respect for this amazing grain that has sustained human culture and held together body and soul for our entire history, it will become my staple food for the duration of Lent. It helps that I like it. I always prefer brown rice for its chewy texture and nutty flavor, but some dishes require or prefer white rice. I think I will try some different varieties of rice to compare and learn over the course of this Lent.
Rice is very versatile, it can be used as the base for many different variations of rice and beans, and complement many different vegetable dishes as well. This fits in very well with my Lenten goals of dietary simplicity and nutritional density.
Thanks to this versatility, I can use the same staple and create a frugal monotony of the same basic dish over and over again. This simplicity is like what most people around the world due out of necessity. But here in California I am inundated with choice. By limiting my staple to just rice, I live more like most humans always have. What’s for lunch/dinner? Rice. Simple.
But there is also a purely selfish motive buried in here too. While I am pushing specific goals aside for Lent, I still do have the triathlon season goal of attaining an ideal race weight and a much improved power to weight ratio. By introducing a sort of monotony in my staple starch, I can put a damper on appetite. Variety encourages eating more. If you are a little bored with your food, you eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re done. A more extreme version of this method is found as a subset of the McDougall Program called Mary’s mini. A short term approach to focus you in on the basic dietary principles, Mary’s mini has you pick one staple starch and focus all of your meals around it, just as many human populations have done. Will the monotony of the rice overcome the diversity of foods I can eat with it? Will I achieve race weight by eating rice? That’s why I consider Lent an experiment, we’ll see.