"Tom you are right about the centrality of rice to at least the Chinese. "
And also Southern India, Bangladesh, West Bengal, Orissa, and the smaller states of Northeast India, Indonesia, all of SE Asia, The Philippines, Japan, and Korea.
"In fact , it is common to politely greet someone with the question "Have you had rice?".
That applies to Thailand and Cambodia as well, that I know of.
"Things do change."
Indeed they do. McDonalds has even gotten its foot in the door in India, although they had to switch from beef for their burgers.