this thing's incredible

I Don’t Even Like Rice, But I Buy These Microwaveable Grains in Bulk

Photo: Jenna Milliner-Waddell

Rice isn’t good. At least, that’s what I thought for the first 20 years of my life. I have yet to meet anyone who agrees with my younger self, but I said what I said. And unlike other things that I claim not to like, I had at least tried rice before. I grew up in a Caribbean household and had been forced to eat my fair share of rice dishes, and I still didn’t like it. No one’s rice and peas, okra rice, or black-eyed peas and rice could make me enjoy the stuff. It was the most mushy, tasteless, and boring of all the side dishes — and unfathomable as a main meal.

That started to change when my sister-in-law pointed out Seeds of Change to my parents during a Costco trip back in 2015. She had been buying them down in Texas and was excited to see them at our local store in New Jersey and said we had to try it. No one in my family needs much convincing to eat, so even with tons of leftovers in the house my parents were excited to try these. They’re pouches of organic quinoa and brown rice flavored with garlic, that can be made in the pouch in the microwave in just 90 seconds, which sounds great if you like rice. Despite how unappetizing that sounded to me at the time I thought, What’s one fork full? When that first grain of rice hit my taste buds everything changed.

We went back to Costco that same weekend for me to get my own box to take back to college, and it became what I would now call my “struggle meal” — something I eat when there’s no food and little money to buy any — but at the time, I really thought I was eating good. My favorite way to prepare it was with melted cheese, two fried eggs on top, finished with a sriracha drizzle. No eggs? No problem. I’d be fine with just the cheese and sriracha. No cheese? I was still fine as long as I had my hot sauce. Gone was the belief that rice alone can’t be a meal. I loved it so much that I packed the pouches with me to my study abroad semester in Spain, and my parents packed it with them when they came to visit me a few months in.

To this day, I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is about the rice that makes it different than all of the other rice I’ve ever eaten and, in turn, edible. But I’ve narrowed down a couple of factors. There’s the garlic flavoring, and I love garlic. Most prepackaged foods require some sort of doctoring but this is perfectly seasoned. According to the ingredient list there’s not just garlic powder, but dried garlic, sea salt, parsley, onion powder, and something they just identify as “spice,” which all come together for the right amount of kick. It could also be the extra bit of texture the quinoa gives the rice. Mixed in with the long grains you get a little but of crunch in every bite. Or maybe it’s the fact that something so good and so filling can be made with such little effort.

I took a pause on these Seeds of Change pouches after I graduated, but they’ve once again become a pantry staple in quarantine. Each pouch has a long shelf life, can accompany almost any main dish or be eaten alone, and for me, there’s a nostalgic quality about it that’s comforting during these times. And while I stand by my original recipe, my preparation of this rice has matured a bit: We’re making rice bowls now. Last week, I used it as a base for a bowl with a poached egg, black beans, vegan mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes, still drizzled in sriracha, and just before writing this, I enjoyed it with crab meat, tomatoes, asparagus, and a poached egg.

Photo: Jenna Milliner-Waddell

My only real complaint about this rice is that other people have also discovered how great it is. This particular flavor is always sold out at Costco, and it’s even harder to find in individual packets at the grocery store. When I do see it, it’s like being reunited with an old friend, and I buy up whatever is left.

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I Don’t Like Rice, But I Love These Microwaveable Grains