Traditionally, cultures were known by the grains they ate; rice in Asia, corn in the Americas, oats in the UK, couscous in the Middle East and buckwheat in Russia, to name just a few. Grains have two key components that make them unique among the world’s foods. They are complete in themselves and they are endlessly adaptable.

In grains, the fruit and the seed have merged to become one. (In fruits, we eat the flesh and throw away the seed.) This oneness is the basis of the complete and balanced nutrition that grains give us. Looked at another way, we can say that grains represent and incorporate both the beginning (the seed) and the end (the fruit) of the plant kingdom.

Grains are adaptable in terms of both geography and climate. They can and do adapt easily and effectively to the varied geographical and climatic conditions of our planet. Therefore, they can be cultivated wherever food can be grown. Barley has the widest growing area of any grain. It can grow north beyond the Arctic Circle and as far south as Ethiopia. Grain can also be stored for hundreds of years, which makes it the ideal food to supply the basic nutrition of our planet.

I will elaborate further on the distinctive qualities of whole grains in future articles but in this first article on grains, I want to concentrate on the uniqueness of brown rice.

There are three aspects of brown rice that I find endlessly fascinating. The first is that brown rice can be cooked with any other food to the mutual enhancement of each.

Brown rice can be cooked with all types of animal food, including, beef, lamb, veal, pork, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood. (Just bring to mind the variety of rice dishes available in the world’s restaurants.) Rice can also be cooked with other grains, as well as with beans, seeds or nuts. We can cook barley with rice and chickpeas with rice. We can garnish rice with walnuts or sesame seeds. Rice can also be combined with different types of dairy food to create both savory and sweet dishes or used to mutual advantage with fruit or other sweeteners to create satisfying desserts.

The second fascinating thing about brown rice is that whatever you cook with it takes no longer to cook than does the rice. For example, if you pressure-cook rice with chickpeas or wheat berries, the beans will be tender in 50 minutes. If you cook chickpeas or wheat berries separately, they can take hours to reach that state.

The third, and perhaps the most endearing, thing about brown rice is that you can eat it every day of your life and yet it remains delicious to the taste. I will go so far as to say that brown rice seems to become more and more delicious over time.

There are mental and spiritual, as well as physical, benefits that come from eating a food that has this wealth of unique qualities. Brown rice can be said to open our minds. It gives us the ability to connect or synthesize different ideas, meaning that it can combine as easily with different ideas as it does with different foods. It promotes as sense of oneness with our surroundings.

With brown rice as the lynch pin of our diet, we can significantly improve and maintain the health of our bodies, minds and spirits.