Rice and beans is staple in most of the Caribbean, and also in parts of Latin America. But why? Why not corn and beans, or rice and corn, or beans and potatoes? Corn and potatoes are native to the Americas after all.

It turns out that anthropologist Riva Berleant has written a paper trying to answer this question. The popularity of rice and beans is probably due to a few reasons:

  • Nutritional completeness. You get a good mix of carbs, protein, and micronutrients that you wouldn't get either with rice or beans alone.
  • Beans grow easily. Many varieties of beans like pigeon peas grow with little effort. They can either be grown by subsistence farmers for direct consumption or at least grown locally.
  • But rice doesn't grow well and usually has to be imported. Why not use corn or potatoes as a starch then? Rice, especially white rice, stores very well. You can store white rice for many years in the right conditions.