Let Them Eat Rice: Exploring the Pinoy Unli-Rice ObsessionAugust 26, 2018
- Diana CamachoWords
From iced tea refills to Internet connectivity, everything’s offered as an unlimited product or service these days. Although we don’t really need them, we consumers buy into these marketing strategies, as if the world benefits from live tweets of what we’re about to eat (a practice I’m peeved at, but also guilty of).
In the case of our unlimited rice obsession, most people chalk it up to the fact that the Philippines is a rice-producing country. Hence, the natural tendency is for us to consume what we have a lot of. Upon doing some “research” (thanks to Google), I found that there are a lot more interesting theories out there. Here are some that you can mull over, while you’re face-deep in your third bowl of unlimited rice.
“Sulit” Monster (Utility Theory)
Let’s admit it: we’re all suckers for a bargain. This sulit mentality probably springs from our fluctuating economy, which makes us want the best value for our hard-earned money. We’re deceived by the unlimited rice deal, not only because it satiates unrelenting hunger, but also because we feel that we’re getting maximum (carbo-loading) pleasure at a cheap price.
Generally, there are two kinds of satisfaction that we derive from eating. One stems from the fulfilment of a biological need, and the other is from the stimulation of our senses (through taste, aesthetics, etc.).
The unli-rice phenomenon satisfies the former. This is why we go to a place like Mang Inasal when we’re absolutely famished, as opposed to a place like Mamou, which we go to when we want to experience our food.
Tough (and Smart) Men Eat Unli-Rice (Biological Theory)
Ever heard of the phrase “to eat like a construction worker”, or in the vernacular, kaing karpintero? For the unacquainted, it simply means to devour amounts of rice, which are grossly disproportionate to the amount of viand alongside it. It’s quite an inexpensive way to refuel energy reserves.
Carbohydrates, rice in particular, are easily-obtained energy. Our digestive system rapidly breaks them down, and converts them into glucose, which powers up the body along with the brain. And there’s nothing manlier (and sexier) than a man who can do hard labor and flex their intellectual muscles at the same time. In this case, going for unli-rice = unli-masculinity.
For my part, I find it a tad disturbing when a man eats less than I do. Then again, some say I eat like a man.
“Que Horror” Rice Eater (Psychological Theory)
For some of us, there is nothing more disheartening than having some ulam (viand) left over, and no more rice left to eat it with. So we scramble to replace the rice, lest we get eaten by the glaring void on our plates. This may partly be attributed to our fear of empty space or horror vacui. It’s a design term that entails filling all empty spaces. Thus, we like availing of the unli-rice because it ensures that we will have enough of both the rice and the viand, at least until we’re ready to wipe the whole plate clean.
(Oh, and the next time someone comments on the barrenness of your post-grad apartment, feel free to drop horror vacui on them. That should shut them up.)
Pinoy-Bred Rice Eater (Cultural Theory)
Our food culture comprises Chinese, Malay, Spanish, and other indigenous influences. As a result, it is characterized by a bold combination of sweet, salty, and sour flavors. Popular Pinoy dishes, such as adobo, kare-kare, and tinapa, simply cannot be eaten without rice because of their saucy/salty character. Our constant use of dipping sauces, such as patis (fish sauce) and soy sauce, also amplifies the need for a neutral flavor to soak up and balance all the robust flavors of Filipino cuisine.
Furthermore, we grew up eating rice, and therefore cannot deny its value in our agricultural society. So the next time you ask for your nth serving of rice, think about all the farmers to whom we owe our unli-rice, and polish off every single grain in their honor. While you’re at it, have an extra viand as a tribute to the cross-cultural trade, which developed our cuisine into something that requires unlimited helpings of the glorious carbohydrate.
“Challenge Accepted” Rice Eater (Competition Theory)
There’s something about the words “unlimited rice” or “rice-all-you-can” that taunt us. We may think that it’s just a harmless invitation, a nice gesture even, but no—it’s a form of trickery that restaurants employ to appeal to our competitive nature. It’s restaurant-speak for “Come at me, bro. We’ve got unlimited rice. You hungry enough?” So we go into their premises, thinking we’ve got them owned, but never go beyond four or five servings of rice anyway.
Yet, we continue to buy into these unlimited rice promos for sport. We go with our friends, and wheedle each other into getting more cups of rice. I even know people (myself included) who proclaim the number of rice servings they usually have, as if it were some sort of athletic achievement. We may think of ourselves as victors in this case, nevermind the surplus of unnecessary calories.
In sum, unli-rice is a very successful marketing ploy that panders to a lot of our instincts. It also gives us a perception of abundance, and encourages a lack of restraint. And let’s be honest, aren’t those what we want out of our eating experience?
What are your thoughts on our unlimited rice obsession?
[images via Wikipedia.org]