Can you guess how much rice you eat in your own country? I bet definetely not more then here in Madagascar. An unbelievable numer of 103 kg of rice is eaten average per person per year in Magascar. 20 kg more then in China!
Rice or as we call it in malagasy - vary - is the main food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For breakfast we usually cook it with condensed milk and cinnamon, called sosoa or simply eat is as "potage" or rice soup. For lunch and dinner with either serve it with vegetables or with zebu or chicken curry.
Burnt rice could be used even for a delicioius drink! Have you ever imagines? Just pour some extra water over the burned rice, boiled it again, and you have ranovola, a beloved drink accompanied for lunches and dinners.
Propably we couldn't even count how many type of rice exist in the world. One thing is common though: how we cultivate it. In Madagascar there are 2 type of cultivation. In the mountains or highlands people slash and burn the fields before they dig small holes into the ground by hand and plant rice seeds in there before they cover it by soil. This is the old tradition still alive in the east coast.
In the northern part where we are present farmers use the well known wet cultivation - you have all seen those picturesque rice terraces in Bali, right? so that is wet cultivation - As rainy season usually starts around December, January in Mada, people can fill up these terraces easily with water.
To harvest 1 kg of rice it needs 2000 liters of water!
But you need to work hard to harvest this precious food! At the end of the rainy reason men have to plough the soil up by their small spades. If they are lucky owning a few zebus they can just let roam these lovely cows on the fields to do the task. After then it is the women who do rest of the work! Women in the villages plant the riceplants and after 30-40 days when the plants are big enough they plant them into the fields. After that men has to make sure there are "walls" around the terraces so rain water could fill the terraces up. Fertilization is done by wind and wind only.
At the beginning of the dry season (around March) rice is ready to harvest. Again it's women's job. Women cut the rice ears and carry them over their head home. At home they have to separate the rice from the straws by straashing it to something. Again if you are rich enough to own some zebus, zebus can do the work instead of you. Just let them walk on the rice straws! It's so easy. After this long process rice can be dried and stored for a long time.
Have you ever imagines how much work it takes someone to produce that rice you buy in the supermarket?
Sadly the quality of rice is not the best in Madagascar due to the weather conditions and the old-school harvest methods. So since the 1970's the country must import rice from various Asian counties. But do not worry if you are rich! You don't have to eat the common rice: vary lava is is your rice, the long grain red rice.
People in the cities depends highly on the production of rice in the villages. Even though rice is the staple food of the people it is not cheap. For a bag of 50 kg rice people pay around 35 euros in the market. If the season is bad they pay even more. Rice is so important in Mada that if someone wants to invite for dinner it littery means "come over for rice" The old 10.000 ariary banknote showed also a woman planting rice seedlings:
Rice is also surviving. It is life. It is food. We see that every day in our school that children are not allowed to come to school because they must work on the family's rice fields. It is a terribly hard decision for families too. Sending their children to school for being educated and possible for better life or sending them to the fields to workd. Most families in the villages have unfortunately no choise. Food is survival.
And we promised you a recipe! Here it is the super delicious Vary Amin'anana!
150 g of round rice
1 tablespoon of grinded ginder
250 g of watercrest (you can replace it with any greens)
1 liter of water
For the meat: choose any meat balls you want with any seasonsing
Add 1 liter of water to 150 g of rice with seasoning (salt and ginger) and start boiling it. Don't be afraid using lot's of ginger. It is full of antioxidants! While the rice is cooking, cut the watercress into small pieces. Meanwhile it is time to prapre the meatballs! Use any meat you want and season it as you prefer. After cooking the rice for 30 min you can add the small meatballs to the rice. Let the rice soup boil until you get a porrigde consistency. If you want you can season with extra salt and pepper. Make sure it is more a soup then a dry rice dish! The more moisture it has the more it fills your hungry belly! Salama manitra!