This I Believe

Nico - Norfolk, Virginia
Entered on December 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family

Playing the Rice Card, Not the Race Card

People who come to my house for the first time often say, “Whoa man! Why do you have a slot machine in your kitchen?” And amused, I have to explain that it isn’t a slot machine, it is a rice dispenser.

I have long understood that my culture is different from the majority of my friends. And since then, I also understood that I have different traditions, food, and way of thinking. I was born in the United States and into a traditional Filipino family but, ever since I was a child, I knew that I was unique. I am not ashamed but I am proud for being different, and the symbol of my pride is rice.

I believe in rice. No other race than Asian that I know of, eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rice for one thing has been a part of my diet ever since I was a baby. I didn’t have green pea Gerber baby food, but I had rice and pre-chewed chicken adobo. I grew up believing that rice made me stronger not a can of spinach. The first dish I learned how to cook weren’t scrambled eggs, ramen noodles or Kool-aid, it was rice. In Filipino parties, if the rice was missing, there is always someone complaining, “Where is the rice?” For me and many other Filipinos, rice is the ABSOLUTE essential dish in a meal. Without rice, a Filipino can’t live—literally.

Rice is more than a type of food for me, but sometimes, I admit, I want something different once in a while. It isn’t like pasta, bread, cereal, or any other food in the same group in food pyramid. It is the way of life for me. Unlike rice that can be bought here in America, the rice I eat always needs a side like adobo or pancit (noodles). It is very clear that eating rice every day makes me a unique person compared to the people around me. I remembered a time when I was in elementary school eating lunch. I used to bring rice and some other Filipino dish in a Glad-ware container. Kids used to tease me for having “Chinese” food, but actually I think they were just jealous because they were having meatloaf surprise and so called “fresh from Hawaii” pineapple.

It may seem like I’m overly obsessed with rice and it may also seem like I can’t live without it. But it is really a type of food that reminds me about my identity. It is a symbol that I am different, but in a good way. It represents that I am Filipino and eating rice is just a part of my culture.