Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.
Recently, the New York Times‘ Kim Severson bemoaned the complications of cooking a good pot of rice. You’d think that such a staple would be a no-brainer, but it seems unless you have southern or Asian heritage, it’s just not in your blood. Hell, I have Asian heritage and I rely far too often on my rice cooker, which produces serviceable grains, but not the firm, springy kernels that should be my birthright.
Looking for help makes things even more complicated—there are as many suggestions on how to boil, steam, simmer and soak your way to a good pot of rice as there are people. So I figured we might as well check in with the year 1853 to see if there are any tips we haven’t tried yet.
Wash it thoroughly in cold water; have your pot of water (two pints for every half pint of rice) boiling—add salt at discretion; put rice in and stir while boiling; let it boil four minutes (some say ten and some fifteen) [Ed note: This seems like a big difference!] then pour off the water as close as you can, without stirring the rice; set the pot on some coals and cover it; let it remain for twenty minutes and then dish it up.