Rice is the most important cereal crop for human consumption. It is the staple food for over 3 billion people (most of them poor) constituting over half of the world's population. All of the world's great civilizations developed only after the domestication of various cereal grains, which provided an adequate food supply for large populations. These have included corn in the Americas, wheat in the Near East and southern Europe (Greece and Rome), and rice in China and India. The use of rice spread rapidly from
China, India, and Africa, and at the present time it is used as a principal food throughout the world. After the discovery of the Americas, the use of rice took hold in both continents. The national dish of Belize in Central America, for example, is composed of rice and beans. There are now hundreds of rice recipes, with each ethnic cuisine having developed individual recipes. Almost all cookbooks have rice recipes, including recipes for risottos and pilafs. Vegetarians, in particular, cherish rice because it is such an excellent food and can be prepared in so many different and appetizing ways. Rice, delicious in itself, readily takes on any flavor that is added. Long-grain rice, when cooked, becomes separate and fluffy, while medium-grain rice is somewhat chewier. Short-grain rice tends to clump together and remains sticky with its starchy sauce. Arborio is an example of a short-grained rice. Wehani rice has a nutty flavor. Basmati rice (aromatic) is very popular, as is jasmine rice.