|| - 02.20.2007
|Rewind back to 1967, and follow me to kindergarten. Kindergarten. That's the place where you find out there are all kinds of ways for other children to make fun of your name. It gets worse in first grade, but I think kindergarten was the first time it ever crossed my mind that names existed to be made fun of. (That's a sentence ending in a preposition, I know, but I don't know any better...I'm still in kindergarten, still trying to live the moment.)
I actually never minded the name jokes. Honest. Sure, I was a sensitive kindergartener. Like that time I cried all morning long because Janet stuck her tongue out at me. But the name thing didn't bother me, not at all. And to this day, the Rice jokes still keep coming. People still make Rice Krispy Treats 'in my honor' at least once a month. But I still don't mind the jokes. (Just please don't stick your tongue out at me. I'll tell my mom!)
From kindergarten on, my name history consists of:
Uncle Ben's Converted Rice (ironically, it was guy named Ben who 'converted' my Dad to Christianity)
Arroz (Spanish word for rice)
Puffed Rice (I was called that during my 'husky' days...actually I never had 'husky' days, but what a degrading name for a pant size for kids!)
Rice Paddy (one of my high school girl friends was named Patty. We joked that if we ever got married and she had to sign anything with "last-name-first" her name would be "Rice, Patty!" Ha! She married someone else though, someone with a non-food name. Borrrring!)
White On Rice
Chicken and Rice
Red Beans and Rice (thanks Raymond...Ray-dog...Ray-Ray!)
And the most recent...compliments of my trainer...and my personal favorite...Dirty Rice
I'm sure I left out plenty. But you get the picture.
Get this--if my middle name were, say, Paul, my "last-name-first" scenario would be: Rice, Chris P.
Football fans will remember my cousin Jerry.
Actually, Jerry Rice is no relation, but I do have an uncle named Jerry Rice, only he doesn't play football. He's a police officer.
And once I tried to start a rumor that Condoleeza Rice and I had discovered that we were related through a complex series of adoptions, and had been offered numerous book deals to explain our connection. Those rumors never caught on. Wonder why.
True story, though, there was an article about me in one of the major news websites recently, and I guess they automatically assumed "Rice" in the headline meant Condi, so it was HER picture that was run with MY article. Oops! I got a good laugh out of that one.
There are other people named after food, too. So I don't feel isolated. In fact, so many recording artists and bands over the years have had 'food' names: Meatloaf, Korn, Limp Biskit, Cake...add Rice to that, and we could all go on tour together..."The 2007 Dinner Tour! Coming to a city near you!"
A meat, a vegetable, a bread, a starchy grain, and a dessert! Hey! Why do I have to be the starchy grain guy?
I think the name "Rice" was some kind of derivative from an Anglo name, "Reese" or "Riese," and its spelling evolved over the years to "Rice." So my name wasn't originally intended to bring food to mind. But it does. I can't change that. That's my lot in life. And I can live with it.
At least rice is a very important food. It's real name (talk about something to make fun of) is "Zizania palustris." Well, that's American wild rice. The common rice, or paddy rice, is "Oriza sativa," and it is THE major caloric food source for a huge portion of the world's population. There are also many other varieties of rice, all of which are grasses, and they grow mostly in water.
China is the largest producer of rice, accounting for 36% of the worlds rice production. India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam also produce huge amounts of rice. The U.S. only produces about 1.5% of the world's rice.
The first recorded introduction of rice in the U.S. was in Charleston, South Carolina in 1686. It started with a guy named Henry Woodard taking one "peck" of rice from a ship docked in Charleston. The English ship had picked up the rice from Madagascar. Woodard began the planting and cultivation from that one small amount, and within a few decades, the rice production that resulted was a major factor in making Charleston one of the wealthiest cities in the colonial period.
Rice continues to be one of the most important foods in the world. And thanks to recent technologies, in just the past 40 years, world production of rice has more than doubled, almost tripled, an important development as the world population increases.
But keep in mind, rice is not only used as food. (This would be a boring article if that were the case.) Although nutrition is it's main use, rice is also useful in medicines, cosmetics, and craft materials around the world.
Not to mention (although I'm about to) that rice is mercilessly hurled at countless brides and grooms in their first moments as a married couple. Maybe this tradition is a kind of preparation, a learning moment, for avoiding together the onslaught of painful trajectories that will come their way in the future.
I've heard rumors that throwing rice at weddings is not a good idea because the birds eat it and then it bloats in their stomachs and then hundreds of birds burst into pieces mid-flight over the next few days all over the town. Showers of bird parts, beaks and feathers, all because of some environmentally careless wedding ritual involving rice pelting the heads of the two happiest people in the world.
Some say, "Throw birdseed instead!" But then, instead of birds exploding over the next few days...oh well, I don't want to go there.
Anyway, I'm pretty lucky to have a name filled with such meaning. I wear the name "Rice" with pride. (Thanks, Dad!) Even though I was mocked as a child, and still am to this day, I'm pretty proud to be named after a staple food for most of the world. I'm also pretty stoked about my namesake food making its appearance at almost every wedding in the world. How many people can say that? Huh?
Try that with all those other last names! Try throwing Fords, or Barnes, or Hooks, or Kings, or Clouds, or Shepherds at the bride and groom! I know people with all those last names, but only Rice works for this very joyous occasion.
So, in conclusion, I like my name. And I love the food!
But please, people, I'm begging you. No more Rice Krispy Treats in my honor. Please?