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The Metro Pulse staffers fondly recall their days of ramen
(sung to the tune of "Witchcraft")
That salty, starchy fare,
Noodles like some bad-perm hair,
the taste that takes me there,
Those instant, kinky strands of it,
Shell out a couple dimes for it,
My legs swell up because
If you could cook it in a Mr. Coffee machine, then I lived on it during my freshman year of college. Soup, macaroni, grits, stuff like that and, of course, coffee, which I don't recommend combining with any of the above items. I once made grits using coffee instead of water, thinking that I'd hit upon a way to get caffeine and nutrition all in one fell swoop. I'll tell you this right nowit only sounds like a good idea.
The number one culinary delight that sprang forth from my percolator was, however, ramen noodles.
There are two competing schools of thought on consuming ramen noodles. One is to break up the rectangular brick and leave the broth in the bowl, allowing you to eat it like soup. The other is to leave the noodles (really, only one very long noodle) intact and drain the broth before eating. I am firmly in the latter camp.
A bowl of ramen noodles is not a polite thing. It's a 20-cent meal that you can prepare in five minutes. It was never intended to be eaten with a spoon while daintily dabbing at your lips with a linen napkin. Rather, you should climb on the couch, lie flat on your back, plunge a fork into the steaming tangle of ramen fun, and gradually lower the arm's-length noodle stalactite into your open mouth. Trust me. That's how they do it in Japan, honest.
It boils down (har) to a difference between consumption aesthetics and a package of MSG-laden bouillon. The choice is up to you, of course, but I personally know which approach Judith Martin uses. And it doesn't involve a spoon.
Sure, you've got your Coke vs. Pepsi, Hostess vs. Little Debbie, Post vs. Kellogg'sbut in the corporate food battles of this century, the most subtly fascinating is Nissin vs. Maruchan. While American food conglomerates resort to multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to hammer their brand names into the average consumer's subconscious, these two top-dog ramen manufacturers from Japan simply let their products do the talking. I've long been a fan of the humble boasting to be found on their plastic wrappers. Nissin, the ramen originator, declares it provides "Oodles of Noodles®¨" and "New Improved" flavor. Maruchan, the challenger to the ramen throne, brazenly proclaims that it creates "American's finest Ramen Noodle Soups." After being seduced by such alluring prose, what's a consumer to do? Which ramen cartel makes the better noodle? My choice is Maruchanand the reason lies in its tiny foil packet. "Cabbage extract." That's the secret ingredient Maruchan supplies in its "chicken" flavoring, while Nissin makes do with chicken fat and butter oil (let's not even talk about the disodium inosinate found in each, or how these companies figured out how to make "powdered chicken"). Yes, the comforting element of cabbage extract gives Maruchan the edge, at least in my book. Of course, the monosodium glutamate might have something to do with it, too.
Man, I love ramen noodles. Ramen noodles are the perfect sustenance for anyone whose budget, due to excessive monetary demands (i.e. school, beer, school, beer, school, beer), is scraped from underneath couch cushions, car seats, or take-a-penny-leave-a-penny cups at gas stations.
I've seen ramen noodles on sale for as low as 6 for a dollar. That's 17 cents a meal. Two meals, 34 cents a day. Once, in a severe budget crunch (I bought a couple of CDs instead of bread, peanut butter, etc.) I ate ramen noodles for two weeks straight$4.76!
Some advice for those adventurous enough to experiment with your ramen: For variety, cook your ramen noodles with different fresh vegetables, various spices like coriander or curry powder or soy sauce. You will be severely disappointed if you try to make your ramen noodles more festive by adding peanut butter, tuna fish, milk, and/or the orange powder from the macaroni and cheese package.
So, if you're about to pass out from donating plasma but still don't have enough to cover university fees and that quart of PBR, think noodlesramen noodles!
Did I mention I'm never eating that shit again as long as I have a job?
"What the hell is THIS?" came the familiar bellow from the bathroom across the hall from my cramped dorm room in Melrose Hall, that most downscale of UT residences, home to foreign students, braniacs, protoslackers, and horny co-eds attracted to the 24-hour visitation.
She was, of course, referring to my burnt-orange hot-pot, which I'd left to soak in the sink several hours ago, then promptly forgotten about. It was my all-purpose substitute for a kitchen, a contraption built to heat water for tea but employed by me to cook everything from soup to canned French-style green beans (my fave) to macaroni and cheese. But it was used most often to cook that college staple: ramen noodles.
Somehow, I'd made it through the first 19 years of my life blissfully unaware that such a thing as ramen noodles even existed. I was plenty familiar with noodles of other sorts from vermicelli to rotini to rigatonibut if it didn't say Creamette on the box, it didn't make its way onto my mother's Pfaltzgraf stonewear plates.
But first day in the dorm, I was inculcated by my more savvy roommate, who sat eating the curly strings out of her hot-pot, which was navy blue. A fan of flavor packets wherever they could be found, I quickly grew adept at creating meals based on ramen, adding a little of this and little of that (from what little I had on hand or could be scraped out of our rent-a-fridge). My favorite was one involving ramen, cream of mushroom soup, canned chicken (white meat, naturally), frozen peas and carrots and pearl onions, and chunks of Velveeta cheese.
All this could be mixed in the hot pot until it overflowed with chick-n-cheesy goodness. Then I'd serve up my ersatz casserole to whatever appreciative friends or roommates or friends of roommates happened to be on hand. They always loved itbut then, they were always too stoned to know any better.
The only problem was, it tended to adhere itself quite stubbornly on any surface to which it was exposed. Especially the interior of my hotpot, where over the semesters it had built upthrough many an improvised meala permanent grayish-tan veneer, with little brunt-brown curlicues where the ramen had almost ignited.
It was gross, I admit it, and hence my roommate's scream. With a sigh, I strolled toward the bathroom, made my apology, and started scrubbingan ineffectual proposition at best, given that my tools were wadded paper towels and Suave Strawberry Essence shampoo. Eventually, I gave up, put the top back on, and slid the whole sloppy mess under my desk and out of sight, where it would stay until my next ramen-o-rama.