by Amy Slack
Your hands are water-wrinkled, prematurely aged. The whorls of your fingertips rise in ridges, your identity a series of drowned mountain ranges.
It takes a few goes. The first rinse turns the water a milky, opaque white. The next runs a little clearer; as it rolls over the lip of the pot, you see the grains shift and settle like sand beneath the water’s surface. You can’t remember a time before this was your responsibility, to rinse the rice thoroughly and encourage it to give up its dust and dirt. Cupping your palm against the rice one final time, you drain the water away, letting the tide carry a few over-adventurous grains down into the waiting sink.
Chefs will tell you that there’s a knack to cooking rice; that it needs to be salted and boiled in a saucepan, then cloaked with a tea towel until the grains puff and fluff and separate. That’s the only way to do it, they’ll say. It’s the correct method.
You’ll listen, and you’ll nod, and then you’ll carry on using the same rice cooker you’ve known how to use since you were seven, when you were tall enough to reach the ‘on’ switch and had to make dinner for your mother for the first time. You don’t mess about with salt and saucepans and tea towels; never have, never will. There are too many other things to worry about.
One day, when someone asks you the secret for cooking rice, you’ll tell them: rinse it. Rinse it until the water runs clear. It’s not the cooking that matters, but what comes before.