THE BLOG
04/30/2008 02:07 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Rice-a-Palooza: Is Costco Kidding Me?

I am a big rice eater. I was born and raised on Guam, a small island in the pacific and by rule we love rice...I was raised eating the yummy white morsels with every single meal, it's genetic and mandatory -- think of it as the salad of the pacific.

And, I eat Chinese food perhaps more times a month than I care to admit. Let's just say, when I call in my weekly order to my neighborhood spot, "Kung Pao Chicken..." she finishes my sentence with "no peanuts, add rice right? " Yes, that's right, person's name who still after 8 years I do not know. And I hate to say it, now and then I will toss in some fried SPAM with my rice for no reason at all and I am in foodie heaven, truly the cure for any hangover, malady, break-up or snack. I don't need to hear the californication of my favorite childhood pastime food; it's simply just fine food for me. Blame it on the geography; we are a product of our environment.

And even with my genetic dependence on rice, I am actually okay with the whole concept of eating less so others can have more...but not more for we who have so much here in the United States Of America, people. More as in other places, for others, where they actually need it. Places such as Vietnam, Haiti, Egypt or fill-in-the-blank country.

This whole talk about our nation bracing for a rice shortage, and warehouse clubs limiting rice purchase to one bag per person, has me wondering who does Costco and Sam's Club think is lined up to hoard all this major rice? Suddenly we're going to buy black market rice in back alleys and sell it street market value? Really?

I can tell you no one in Middle America cares, and does anyone in Texas need a 50 lb bag of rice? I think most of us are just fine dialing back our rice intake for a bit until this "wave" of skyrocketing prices passes...aren't we? I will miss Kung Pao but he will forgive me.

I have to wonder, is it the young sushi hooked foodie celebrities who fear sushi at their trendy local spot will get eliminated, voted off the menu ? I visualize the chefs in the kitchen hearing about the economic woes and maybe it's these guys heading out to Cost Co to try to grab up the rice of America. If they don't mind, maybe the sushi fiends can go to In and Out, or Subway or Pizza Hut, have a sandwich, support American made and leave the rice to those who actually depend on it to survive both growers and buyers.

I got a cold reality check today and realized there are in fact people who cant wait this price war out and do need to buy more than one 50 pound bag of rice, actually they need 150 pounds per week. That's a lot of sushi rice.

I had the honor of spending a month in Thailand last November launching a very special project called See and Sprout with tsunami orphans from the The Duang Prateep Orphanage in Southern Thailand. I arrived every evening at dinnertime when the 52 children were sitting on the floor with their tin plates, perfectly spaced sitting on the floor in two orderly lines. Every plate had a little pile of rice, three times a day.

This weekend we are set to show the inspiring photos the orphans shot during the See and Sprout Project. They will be exhibited at The Venice Grind Gallery in Los Angeles, and for every photo sold, the proceeds will go directly back to each child photographer. I have not had any doubt that each child will gain a slice of self-sufficiency as a result of the sale of the photos this weekend, because they are that beautiful, that good. I have images of them affording school uniforms, underwear, a clean towel, maybe even something special. When I spoke to one of the staff today, with the celebration of the children's creativity comes a sharp reality -- with the sky-rocketing rice prices and talk about rice rationing going on globally, I didn't quite realize how this affects the orphanage.

For example, the 52 children who live there go through 150 lbs of rice per week ($61 US). With economic times where they are today, they may actually not get fed the meals the depend on, so this exhibit, the exposure, and awareness we will share this weekend through pictures and the gathering is quite relevant and very timely, not only for this village but the children in many other countries whose main staple is rice.

I can't help but think that 12 lattes can feed a whole orphanage for a week. I think we can manage that simplified rationing, sure we'll be irritable and angry, but we'll all be better for it.