I Have Been Betrayed by Rice

So I’ve been puzzled for a long time as to how I might manage to get poisoned on a seemingly routine basis, because I have. Food poisoning is not fun. It involves hours (and sometimes days) of discovering exactly how many tiles are on the floor of your bathroom, and then attempting to forget that number while counting for the Nth time.

But, I think I’ve finally figured it out. It’s all about rice. See, I’d always assumed that the proscriptions about eating reheated rice were based on not-adequately-sterilized leftovers — the assumption being that if you heat those leftovers past the boiling point you’re safe, and anyone who got sick wasn’t doing that.


The problem is that rice is home to a particularly nasty bacteria that, in its dormant state, does not get killed by home cooking – you need temperatures in excess of four-hundred-degrees to denature the suckers (which, as it turns out, is what those big food companies do to prepacked meals). As soon as the rice cools to a bacterial-friendly temperature, these little mofos come to life and start breeding, and their ‘excrement’ is a toxin which does not break down when heated, even though returning the rice to high temperatures kills the critters themselves. Their crap is there to stay.

So it turns out that you cannot under any circumstances consume rice after the initial cooking without risking serious consequences. If you have a top end rice cooker and don’t open it, you can actually hold the rice for a really long time, but as soon as you access it you’ve got at most a window of a few hours in which to safely eat it.

Gee… You’d think I’d have known that with my vast and in-depth explorations of all-things-food, but no. I suppose it’s just one of those “everybody knows they shouldn’t do this” things that I never experienced. Dammit. Nobody has ever said to me “don’t eat day-old rice because IT MAY BE POISONED and YOU CAN’T MAKE THE POISON GO AWAY.”


Well at least I’ve finally figured that out. I will now go and eat freshly cooked rice along with the pea soup I’ve just finished making. I will savor every bite. And if I have leftover rice after I’ve finished my meal I’ll be sending it to the compost heap.

  1. #1 by MKerr on November 18, 2010 - 11:41 am

    Yikes! I had absolutely no idea. Thanks for the PSA! By the way, do you have a rice cooker?

  2. #2 by ironicchef on November 18, 2010 - 12:45 pm

    I do indeed have a rice cooker – one of these fine machines, though mine is about eight years old now (and still working perfectly). I’d had an inexpensive Salton one prior to that, but it didn’t stand up to routine abuse and I got less than a year out of it. And it’s awesome that my rice cooker uses “Neuro Fuzzy Logic” to determine when the rice is perfect 🙂

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