Very Vary

20 Dec

According to the Bradt Guide to Madagascar, the Malagasy people eat the most rice per capita of any country in the world. This statistic really comes to life when you see the huge heaping mounds of rice that these people pack away at every meal.

As part of my enculturation during my stay, I am doing as the Malagasy do and eating lots and lots of rice, or ‘vary’ as they call it in Malagasy. There’s rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, and rice for dinner. In total, we have been cooking 6 kupokes of rice per day for three of us (Joach, Vola, and myself). Not that we weren’t already eating lots of rice, but once the heatwave of November hit, we added another kupoke of rice throughout the day and brought our daily total up to 7 kupokes of uncooked rice.

One kupoke of rice weighs approximately 280 grams (0.6 lbs). After doing some back of the envelope calculations, I computed that it will take me about 100 days to consume my own body weight in uncooked rice! I like to imagine this as a life-size Andy-shaped glass jar slowly filling up with rice grains (like a giant vary hourglass). As of December 10, that Andy jar is about 75% full, with rice reaching all the way up to my nipples! This is a shocking figure and I’m certain that I’ve already consumed more rice since I arrived in Madagascar than I have in all of my previous years of life… combined.

We eat so much rice here that we have to buy 100 kupokes (28 kg / 60 lbs) of rice every two to three weeks. The craziest thing is that I absolutely love rice now. I didn’t dislike rice before, but I’ve grown to really enjoy and crave it as a food, especially with some choice beans and some sakay (Malagasy hot sauce) piled on top.

Recently, we started running low on rice and had to ration our remaining grains for nearly a week as we waited to resupply from the Thursday market in the nearby village of Beavoha. This rationing meant keeping rice on the menu for breakfast and lunch, but switching to macaroni for dinner. After only three consecutive nights of pasta, I already missed my evening dose of rice and beans. This is how much I have learned to love and appreciate those narrow white grains.

The only question that remains is will my love of rice fade once I depart from lemur island? Will I continue eating rice so frequently in Vienna when I have a plethora of other dietary choices? Only time will tell.

Post Script: After initially writing this post, we have increased our daily rice intake. We realized that we were all still a little hungry after meals an that we could easily eat more. So now we consume 9.5 kupokes of rice per day, which works out to almost one kilo of rice per person per day; wow!

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