Ilike rice. It is pretty easy to cook, it fills up a plate. And as long as the rice isn't "covered with anything" the kids will eat it.
The trouble I have with rice is keeping it warm. It emerges from the pan steaming, but by the time the tribe is summoned to the table, the hands washed, the disputes settled, and ketchup, the omnipresent condiment, is fetched from the fridge, the rice is cold.
The kids don't seem to mind. But I do.
To get help, I called up a couple of people wise in the ways of rice. First I talked with Sudha Koul, author of "Curries Without Worries" (Cashmir Inc. Pennington, N.J., $9), a pleasant self-published paperback cookbook now in its second edition. I talked with Ms. Koul at her Pennington home.
Then I spoke with Steve Sax, second baseman for the New York Yankees, who is a spokesman for the USA Rice Council. I talked with Sax by phone from Los Angeles where he was proclaiming the health benefits of rice's complex carbohydrates, after similar performances in New York, Boston, and Detroit.
Sax was the second major-league baseball player I had heard about who liked rice. The first was former Los Angeles Dodger and San Diego Padre first baseman Steve Garvey, whose status as a rice spokesman apparently got mushy several years ago when two different paternity suits were filed against him.
If anyone had asked me I would have said Garvey would have made an ideal rice guy. Rice is, after all, a symbol of fertility. That is why we throw it at weddings. But nobody asked me, and this time around, Sax, the clean-cut husband, father of two young children, is the baseball guy singing the praises of the kernel.
It was Ms. Koul, the cookbook author, who had the most to say aboutkeeping the rice warm.
She had two basic suggestions. One dealt with getting the kids to the table, the other with how to cook the rice.
On the family front, Ms. Koul said she was taught as a child in her native India that "you can't keep the rice waiting." Humans may wait for rice, she said, but rice never waits for humans.
Kids have to learn that when they hear the cook announce, "The rice is ready," they are supposed to high-tail it to the table. That way with everyone seated, the rice will be hot when served. It works most of the time with her two daughters, 16 and 10 years old, she said.
On the cooking front, Ms. Koul outlined her favorite way of heating and reheating rice.
Mixing 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water, she brings them to boil for two minutes, stirring to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then she reduces the heat to low and cooks the pot of rice for 15 minutes until the rice gets puffy.
As for reheating a pot of cold rice, Ms. Koul add 3 tablespoons of water to the pot of rice, pouring the water on the rice like syrup on top of pancakes. Then she covers the pot and cooks the rice on low for five more minutes. This time she does not stir the rice.
Stirring cooked rice, she said, makes the grains break and become lumpy.
The way she explained it to me, reheating rice employs the same principles used to make a good martini: shaken, never stirred.
When I called Sax in California, I told him about Ms. Koul's rule that "the rice could never be kept waiting." Sax said it sounded good in principle. But he said putting it into practice with his 3 1/2 -year-old and 2 1/2 -year-old daughters might take some doing.
Sax had a simpler solution to what to do with cold rice. Zap it in the microwave oven, he told me.
I had the answers to my main rice worry, but I talked with Sax a bit longer.
I couldn't let him go without asking him what I ask every big league baseball player: Whaddaya eat for breakfast?
And to no one's surprise, the spokesman for the rice council did not say he ate Wheaties,
Rather, he said he ate rice. Rice bran pancakes. Here is the recipe:
Rice bran buttermilk pancakes Makes 8 4-inch pancakes.
cup rice flour
1/2 cup rice bran
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
4 beaten egg whites
vegetable oil cooking spray
Sift dry ingredients together. Combine buttermilk and eggs, add to flour mixture and beat until blended. Pour batter onto hot griddle sprayed with vegetable oil cooking spray. Cook until underside is nicely browned. Turn and brown other side. Turn only once.