Beans & Rice: An Ancient Staple Dish
Found in variations around the world, beans, and rice have been a staple dish for centuries. The dish has a strong local significance in different places and is often a tangible symbol of identity for a people or culture. The food pairing is thought to have originated in Africa and traveled over to the Americas during the slave trade, where beans and rice now remains an integral part of Latino culture. In fact, in Central America, the pairing of beans and rice is often called Matrimonio “the marriage” because their union is so perfect; so perfect, that when eaten together, beans and rice contain all nine essential amino acids to form a complete source of protein.
The perfect superfood combination of beans and rice has been around for hundreds of years, but rice and beans on their own, have a history that dates back to early human civilization.
History of Rice
Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop. Its history dates as far back as 2500 B.C. and has been an essential part of many culture’s diets around the globe. In fact, archaeological evidence shows that rice was believed to have first been domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River valley in China. Its cultivation then spread throughout the world via trade routes and trading centers. From China, rice was then introduced to Sri Lanka and India. It then passed into Greece and other areas of the Mediterranean, eventually making its way from Europe into the New World. Its ability to grow in various climate conditions is what allowed this ancient grain to spread throughout the world and remain a vital carbohydrate-rich crop today.
History of Beans
Like rice, beans have a long history. These seeded pods of various legumes are among the oldest known foods. For instance, domesticated fava beans were found in what is now northern Israel and were carbon-dated to about 10,000 years ago. Favas were a major staple of the Mediterranean diet and were widely grown, even prior to grains. Lentils and chickpeas were also common crops in the ancient world and have been found in the tombs of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Like rice, through travel and trade, beans gradually spread into India, northern Africa, Spain, and the rest of Europe. Beans were also prevalent in the Americas, as a site in Peru reveals that humans were eating beans 8,000 years ago. The common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) is native to the Americas and was important to the indigenous people of Mesoamerica and the Andes and can still be found growing in wild parts of Mexico. The long history of beans proves that around the globe, a variety of peoples relied on this superfood for sustenance.
A Flavorful Story
As beans and rice have had their own histories as separate crops throughout human civilization, together, their union has made for a variety of international flavor combinations that each tell a story of their own. This is why Chef Soraya bowls seek to highlight global rice and bean combinations, to tell a story of history and culture through the feast of flavors that all began with a basic grain and a simple legume.
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