Sunday, March 26, 2006

my nasty-ass rice

(Not a rant against Condi.)

I have a plastic jar, about a half-gallon in volume, in which I normally keep dry rice. The jar had been sitting there for a couple months, full of rice, but untouched, unused. Today, given the leftovers in my fridge, I decided I'd make some fried rice. I grabbed the rice jar. Unscrewed the top.

And was greeted by an army of dead, winged bugs.

My very own Qin terracotta army.

Being the type of person who is more likely to be fascinated than revolted by things that are out of the ordinary, I decided to analyze the situation. Conclusion #1 was obvious: I'd left the rice unused for too long. Conclusion #1 led smoothly to Life Lesson #1: use your rice in a timely manner, or risk arthropod attack. Life Lesson #1 is one of those things that applies only to single men: men in relationships rarely have to learn this lesson (recall the French riddle, posted earlier, about how you know your wife is dead).

Conclusion #2 was the result of some poking, prodding, and exploration. First, I observed that all the mature bugs were on the surface, on top of the rice. I looked down at the side of the jar, which was transparent, and saw hundreds of tiny eggs: the second wave of the invasion, I suppose.

Second, I observed that the rice, when prodded with a spoon, behaved as if it had been exposed to moisture: it broke apart, but was slightly sticky. The insects, after hatching (and as they moved toward maturity), must have been using the rice as food, consuming and digesting it, then excreting something sticky and starchy. I say "starchy" because the surface was covered with something that initially reminded me of a spiderweb but which, on closer examination, was more like the starchy film I associate with rice cooker lids. If the insects had nothing but rice (and each other?) to chew on all those months, I think "starch" would be as good a guess as any about the composition of the mysterious gunk.

The third observation was that the insects-- and their eggs-- appeared to be dead. All of them. The eggs looked dry and inert; the insects, which looked like something between flying ants and mosquitos (couldn't have been the latter), were all quite kaput. Because they had all matured and died inside the jar, and because I have had no pest problem for the past couple months, I can safely assume that not a single insect escaped the jar. After taking a moment to smile grimly and imagine the insects' futile efforts to escape their immense plastic-and-rice prison, my smile faded and my mind queasily settled on Conclusion #2:

If the insects never escaped, but bred and matured inside the jar, then they (or their eggs) must have been in the original, store-bought packages of rice.


I suppose it's all right, though: American comedians traditionally make fun of peanut butter, whose jar labels apparently report the presence of insect parts. I'm not at all deterred by the thought that I might be ingesting bug heads in my PB&J-- "More nutrition for me!" I say. A few mysterious eggs in my rice won't do me any harm, as long as I don't give the little bastards a chance to breed.

I threw out my rice. Whether those eggs were dead or alive made little difference to me. They might have been interesting to look at, but there was no way in hell I was going to eat that many of them.



Lorianne said...

Here's something I learned when I lived in a Zen Center & we bought rice & other dry goods in bulk: when you put rice or other grains in a jar or cannister, add a single bay leaf. Bugs find the scent of bay leaf repellant, so new ones won't crawl in & any bugs already in there will try to get *out.*

Anonymous said...

I think Charles of Liminality is still alive...

Anonymous said...

Dude! That would've made a SWEET silverfish terrarium!