Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Rice Ball By Any Other Name, Part Deux

I'd like a rice ball, please.
This morning, I lingered in bed in order to ponder today's conclusion about life, liberty and the pursuit of rice balls (with a little sauce on the side).

 I fell back to sleep and dreamt that Hannibal Lechter was my father.

I suspect, for many reasons, that this dream was a long time coming but surprisingly, it wasn't unpleasant at all. In fact, Hannibal was a nice, supportive parent. Whether he was planning on, later, eating my liver with a nice chianti and some fava beans remains to be seen as the dream ended when the phone rang. 

There were riceballs (I actually think they may have been hanging on a Christmas tree) in the dream as well.

Strange dreams aside, I recently discovered the presence of rice balls within a 15 mile radius of my home on a recon mission to a new --and amazing -- supermarket called DeCicco's.

This market cannot even be described. To suburbanites who can only dream about the plentitude of fresh and ethnic chioces in our old neighborhoods, it was an emotional experience.

Meats, cheeses, breads, cakes and cookies, I didn't know what to stare at first.
Ma! You didn't save me a rice ball???
I wasn't the only one.There were people restlessly milling about by the prepared foods counter with fixed, glassy stares, salivating. Others were circling around  the bakery, the imported beer section and the salad bar as if they had never before seen food.

I was hardly more than a tourist myself because after seeing some of the prices, I knew this was just a "special occasion" destination. 

Suddenly, however, the visual of a rice ball, warm and crusty, appeared in my mind's eye and I drifted towards the drooling crowd.

Walking with stiff legs over to the counter, I politely joined the the other zombies...all of whom were individuallly fixated on that one food item -- whatever it may have been -- that would bring them back to innocence, restore their virginity and grant them eternal youth.

When my turn came, I suddenly became tongue-tied. "Rice balls...." I whispered to the girl in the snappy white deli coat.

"Of course," she answered. We have two kinds. Sicilian and...."

I didn't need to hear beyond the word Sicilian....and I don't quite remember what happened next but in my hands was a plastic container containing two rice balls the size of softballs.

They appeared to be glowing slightly.

I assume I paid for them since I have not received any visits from the police.

To make a long story short: the first ball was tasteless. Dense and leaden, it was more like a cannon ball than the fluffy beauties of my past. I am putting the second one on Ebay, in the category of boating supplies, since it would make a perfect ship's anchor.

I took the disappointment very, very badly well because I soon realized that driving my car through the front window of the supermarket would end in a rap sheet that included the words, "rice balls."

And, I eventually concluded that no rice ball on earth, no matter how perfect or whose grandma might have prepared it with her calloused rice-ball making little hands, would ever live up to those of my past.

The rice balls of yesteryear  had been irretrievably annointed with the sheen of the past.
Nothing will ever taste that good again.

I enjoyed them during the magical time when all lay before me, the future was mine and they were served along with the happy smiles of Sal and Tony.

Plus a little sauce on the side.
 *Why don't I make them for myself, you ask. First of all, a rice ball can only be made by the pure of heart which disqualifies me immediately.

Second, they are too much work. But the main reason is that rice balls should be made for you. The making of rice balls is an act of love and commitment (or commerce if you own a pizzeria) and you should not have to make them for yourself. It would be like sending  yourself flowers.

If you wish to try, however, here's a recipe. Let me know how they come out.


  1. Those look really, really good. I love all things rice. I wonder if you can make them with brown rice?

  2. Michele, they are fabulous but as much as I am an advocate of brown rice, I would use white, short grain for the fluffiness factor. Introduce them to the great state of Texas....

  3. Rice balls...........YUM!!!!!!!!!!!

    (resisting the urge to pull a frat boy joke here)

  4. I had rice balls for the first time last year when my very close, VERY Italian friend got married. The wedding was HUGE and little ladies walked around with trays of deliciousness. I was reluctant to try the fist rice ball because, lets face it, they look a little...different, but once I tried one I spent the rest of the wedding alternating between the wine lady and the rice ball lady and I would empty the rice ball lady's tray every time she came by. FABULOUS!!

    On another note, sorry I haven't been able to comment a lot lately. My new job has the comment option blocked!! *GASP!!* But I have still been reading daily! :)

  5. Cat, if you come to NYC, I will provide you with unlimited rice balls.

    Thanks for reading, young lady...the comment option is blocked?? What next?

    What new job? DO you like it?

  6. Ah, arancini. How I love thee. I only just discovered these lovelies in the last few months. Trader Joe's makes a frozen variety which are tasty but no where near the deliciousness of what they can be. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, makes an amazing rice ball. Sitting on a little pool of veal ragu. Oh, yes, they're delicious. He runs the yacht club here in Stratford, but I think he only makes them for special occasions (like this past mother's day when he proudly brought some over to our table). My husband and I have a food orgasm over those things. So if you're ever in the Pootatuck Yacht Club for some reason, as for the balls:)

  7. I got a big fancy promotion :) I love it!! It just keeps me very busy. No time to write :(

  8. Big fancy promotions are great--congratulations!! Your readers miss you, though!!! XO