Roots of Civilization.
The rice planting season in Thailand usually starts in May. Around this time, showers signal the approaching end of the dry season, and farmers once more prepare for rice planting as one annual cycle ends and another begins. Since Thai farmers have to wait for seasonal rain to plant their annual rice crop, they are sometimes faced with drought problems, so there might not be enough rainfall for crop growing. Farmers solve this problem by digging canals to channel water into their rice fields. At the same time, they perform some rain-making rites and other ceremonies to pray for the fertility of the land.
The rice field mud walls are designed to keep the water in the paddies. By breaking holes in these muds walls, water may be moved down from higher fields to irrigate lower ones. Once the seedlings are planted, they are later transplanted at a greater distance one from the next, almost always through a uniquely
backbreaking operation that is often accompanied by generous shots of rice whisky. The rice then enjoys the rainfall during thegreen season through to September. The rice turns from emerald to a darker green and finally to dry gold under the strong sun. By late November, it is ready to be harvested. Each morning, farmers go into the fields with sickles to harvest their crop. The cut rice is spread on the fields to dry for several days before being bundled into sheaves and taken to the family compound where it is threshed, and may then be milled.
In the old days, water buffaloes played an important role in almost every step of rice planting. Buffaloes and Thai farmers’ lives were closely related in the sense that they lived together. Buffaloes were helpful in various kinds of labour, from ploughing, harrowing, threshing to husking rice before tractors were introduced to farmers in later generations. Rice has always been the staple food of the Thai people, and it plays a crucial role as the essence of Thai life. Farmers transfer the knowledge of rice cultivation from one generation to the next. They enjoy a rich culture with centuries-old traditions linked with rice farming.
Rice is the essence of life
Kin Khao Ma Rue Yang? Or would I say “Have you eaten yet?” is one of the common ways for people to greet each other in Thai culture. The reason being that rice has been embedded in eating culture as a symbol of well being, and the value of kinship in society. Therefore, rice is one of the most significant plants in Thailand, as it is the main food that feeds Thai people from one generation to another. Thai’s eat both glutinous and non glutinous rice, prepared as meals, snacks, desserts and drinks (see article pages 30-31).
In Thailand, rice usually appears on the table at every meal. Thai people consider a meal incomplete when there are exquisite Thai dishes on the table but without some nice steamy rice. Decades ago, before electric rice cookers were introduced to Thai society, earthenware pots were used for cooking the rice,
then aluminium pots.
Rice is everywhere in daily life: farmers sleep on rice straw, drink rice liquor and offer rice to Buddha. Rice is also in music, particularly folk songs. Thai classical dances and folk ballads tell stories of rice farming and can still be seen and heard these days. If you happen to go to a kantoke dinner you will have the pleasure of witnessing the traditional dance of the harvest. As long as rice is still the staple of Thai people, it will always have a lasting influence over their way of life and culture.