Southern Cast Iron

Glory to the Grain

One doesn’t become infatuated with rice by happenstance. Maybe you grew up eating it as a suppertime side to a hearty roast or plopped atop a bowl of gumbo. But odds are, you never thought twice about the fluffy grains on your plate.

Consider, for a second, just how much rice is consumed throughout the South. In Louisiana, the golden grain plays a lead role in Cajun dirty rice, jambalaya, boudin, and more. Much of Texas takes a south-of-the-border spin on rice, incorporating ingredients like chiles to add a kick, and rice is also a mainstay side (in some shape or form) in many of the state’s best barbecue joints. Visit southern Florida and you’ll find rice accompanying almost every Cuban or Puerto Rican meal, like arroz con pollo (a comfort food dish that literally means rice with chicken) or head north to the Carolinas, where rice is essential to Gullah traditions like hoppin’ John and chicken bog. You’d be hard-pressed to find a culture in which rice isn’t a key ingredient, so maybe it’s time we gave this humble pantry staple the attention it deserves.

Historians believe rice was first grown in China around 6,000 BC, slowly spreading to the rest of Asia, Europe,

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