Noodles as an Economic System

When I went back to college, one of my dearest friends used to calculate the cost of everything by how many packages of ramen it could buy.

This was a winter when her funds were low, so every time a lightbulb burned out, or she needed to replace a tire, or purchase a bottle of Nyquil to get through the never-ending round of colds and flu, she would say, “And with the money I spent on that I could have bought thirty two and a half packages of ramen.”

Or however many packages it worked out to.

She was on the all-ramen diet. All ramen all the time.

She regaled us with the various ways she ate it, once she tired of eating it as a soup.

She ate the noodles raw, like chips, and dipped them in salsa.

She cooked them and drained them and put ketchup on them and called it “spaghetti.”

She crushed the raw noodles up and put salad dressing over them and tossed them with a few pathetic lettuce leaves.

And I even think she might have poured milk on them, doused them in sugar and called it cereal, but don’t quote me on that. I could be wrong.

But the fact remains, that while ramen are fat-laden and utterly horrific for one, while she was living on her “all ramen, all the time” diet, she lost weight.

And she didn’t even need to.

Well. I couldn’t have that–so, Zak and I started inviting her over, and making certain she would arrive at supper time. This took a bit of cleverness on our part, because if we were to invite her formally for supper, she would feel as if she should reciprocate or bring wine or something, and she couldn’t afford such niceities. So, we just “happened” to tell her to come over, and when she arrived, I just “happened” to be “late” putting “supper on the table,” and, “look,” I’d say–“there is plenty for three of us! And, oh, do sit down and eat, I will be most put out if you don’t, of course you can, look, see, I have already dished it up for you, and everything, and I’ll have to wash the plate anyway, so you might as well eat it.”

She always ate plenty, and helped wash up afterwards, and after a couple of weeks of this, she finally got suspicious and said, “You guys are doing this on purpose aren’t you?”

Well, when asked directly, one cannot lie to a friend, so we had to ‘fess up to it. And which point, she said, “Oh, you don’t have to, and I will pay you back somehow,” and before she could get really self-abasing, we made it clear that she need not worry, and that there was no need for payment, because her company and friendship is beyond price.

It was quite simple.

We had.

She had not.

So, we shared.

She stopped losing weight, and went on to have much less lean winters and now, I suspect would die rather than even look a bowl of ramen straight in the eye again.

And we all laugh about the noodle-based monetary system.

But, I cannot blame her.

Even if, when push comes to shove, I can make ramen taste like it started out as food.

And I did so just tonight, and I will tell you how I did it and why.

It is my and Zak’s twelfth anniversary.

(No, silly, I did -not- make ramen for our anniversary dinner. Sheesh. Read on.)

And so, we gallivanted off to spend the day in Columbus doing couple-like things together–which for us included shopping for food, shoes and Chinese movies.

For people like us who posess bad feet, sensible shoes and the aquisition thereof is the stuff of which great romance is made. One simply cannot be human, much less loving, if one’s feet are about to fall off in a most painful way. And of course, food shopping–is utterly erotic, what with the promise of all the goodies that will be made with the delightful ingredients we can pick up in “the big city.”

And Chinese movies–well, we are as passionate about them as we are about each other.

We did all of this, plus had ravishingly luscious sushi, before coming home to Morganna.

Ah–see–that is where the noodles come in.

She graciously allowed us a day to be silly newlyweds again, instead of parental units, and stayed home. And though I fed her on freshly made waffles and bacon, and extracted a solemn promise from her that she would eat something nutritive during the day, she fenced a friend to a standstill, and then ate ice cream.

So, needless to say, when we waltzed in at eight o clock, she was ravenous. We showered her with her presents, (Japanese chocolates and Batz Maru goodies) and showed her the precious DVD’s we had brought, and showed off our new shoes and clothes, and she was properly excited and happy.

And then, her stomach growled, I sighted the empty carton of Ben & Jerry’s and it was all over.

“You didn’t eat anything but ice cream, did you?”

She shook her head, trying to look contrite and failing utterly.

“And now you are hungry for something with nutritional value, aren’t you?”

She nodded avidly.

So, upstairs to the kitchen I went, and broke out the ramen.

Ramen is one of the few convenience food items I will still use and eat now and again. I don’t use that “Top Ramen” crap you get in most American grocery stores–it tastes like sawdust and MSG with a side of salt and plastic for flavor. I use the Korean and Japanese brands, and add goodies to it to make it taste like real food.

For example–tonight, I added to the cooking water chicken broth, leftover sauce from ja jiang mein which I had in the fridge, slivers of dried Chinese black mushrooms, a goodly slosh of Shaoxing wine and the two very lonely baby Shanghai bok choy which were not worth cooking on their own, and were thinking of wilting into a pathetic huddle at the bottom of the vegetable drawer.

A few slivers extra of garlic and ginger, and voila!

Within minutes, something hot, edible and with nutritive value appeared in a bowl and was gobbled up by the hungry girl who was too silly to cook the noodles on her own, even though I know she can do it herself–I have seen the proof of it with my own eyes.

But, in truth–I think she wanted me to do it.

It must taste better with a bit of Mom magic in it.


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  1. Hi Barbara – My Wife always makes fun of me when I make Ramen(never Top Ramen crap), I can’t just make it, and eat it! I need to add a fried egg, bean sprouts, kamabuko, or whatever’s handy – so I ended up calling it my “Mongrel Mein”. It’s just comfort food!

    Comment by Kirk — October 31, 2005 #

  2. I haven’t been able to eat just plain old ramen cooked with just the stuff in the package for, oh, ever. Not probably since childhood.

    I mean, there are always leftovers in the fridge–a few pieces of stir fried chicken perhaps, or I have a couple of baby carrots that have thus far eluded the knife that I can shred and add, or some black mushrooms or egg or some preserved vegetable or whatnot.

    I used to own a bookstore and would now and again make ramen for lunch for Zak and I, and customers always wanted to know what it was. When they saw it was ramen, they were always shocked. “But it looks and smells like food!”

    I always wanted to say, “Well, just because it comes in a package doesn’t mean you can’t put real ingredients in with it and make it good.”

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — October 31, 2005 #

  3. Oh, goodness, Ramen makes me so happy! I like to buy the Creamy Chicken variety when I can, cook and drain hte noddles, and then stir fry them with veggies and chicken.

    I also had a friend who lived on nothing but Ramen (and Mt. Dew) for several months. She developed scurvy. Had she let on that she was only eating Ramen, we would have fed her; the consequences for her is that now she’s on perpetual “Is Kat eating?” watch.

    Comment by Kris — October 31, 2005 #

  4. The all ramen diet does lack nutrients. I think that the only reason our friend hadn’t developed something dire like scurvy was because of the ketchup and salsa she supplemented the ramen with.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 1, 2005 #

  5. I just showed this post to a few of the others at Naughty Curry, and we’re laughing, cause oh can we relate!
    We’re wanting to do an Indian-spiced ‘Masala Ramen’ real soon. If you have any ideas, Barbara, let me know! We would love an excuse to link to this fun post. 🙂

    Comment by courtney — November 4, 2005 #

  6. Curry noodles–ah, no problem!

    Singapore rice noodles are a Chinese dish that are fried rice noodles with curry powder as a seasoning, onions, sweet peppers, bean sprouts, roast pork, egg and shrimp. You could do a version of this with ramen by using leftovers, curry powder, and some vegetable bits–instead of making “soupy” noodles, drain the cooked noodles, sprinkle with the flavoring packet (use shrimp or pork) and stir. Add curry powder. Saute in a wok or pan some onions and slices of pepper and bean sprouts and toss in the noodles. Stir fry like bloody mad and call it Fake as a Snake Singapore Rice Noodles.

    Or, for masala noodles, make the noodles with only a little bit of broth, and add garam masala. Add mushrooms, chiles, greens and tomatoes to it, stir well, and if you are really brave, add a dollup of full fat yogurt to make it creamy. Heat them through and call them Masala Mamma Ramen.

    ‘Tis no trouble at all. And yes, I would be honored if you liked back here.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 4, 2005 #

  7. Barbara ~
    This is AWESOME! You seem to know just the sort of thing that Naughty Curry is looking for. We’re going to have jolly good fun with this. You are too cool, and just a bit saucy…
    I’ll let you know when we are about to post.

    Comment by courtney — November 7, 2005 #

  8. Well, with a name like Naughty Curry–I figured you want some “cool n saucy” sorts of recipe ideas.


    Comment by Barbara Fisher — November 7, 2005 #

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