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[R.I.P.] Mr. Noodle

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  • chiayuan25
    Appreciations Mr. Noodle The New York Times Published: January 9, 2007 The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9 8:33 AM
      Mr. Noodle
      The New York Times
      Published: January 9, 2007

      The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised
      those of us who had never suspected that there was such an
      individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a
      team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like
      the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from
      that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

      But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was
      looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he
      invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958. His product — fried,
      dried and sold in little plastic-wrapped bricks or foam cups —
      turned the company he founded, Nissin Foods, into a global giant.
      According to the company's Web site, instant ramen satisfies more
      than 100 million people a day. Aggregate servings of the company's
      signature brand, Cup Noodles, reached 25 billion worldwide in 2006.

      There are other versions of fast noodles. There is spaghetti in a
      can. It is sweetish and gloppy and a first cousin of dog food.
      Macaroni and cheese in a box is a convenience product requiring
      several inconvenient steps. You have to boil the macaroni, stir it
      to prevent sticking and determine through some previously obtained
      expertise when it is "done." You must separate water from noodles
      using a specialized tool, a colander, and to complete the dish —
      such an insult — you have to measure and add the fatty deliciousness
      yourself, in the form of butter and milk that Kraft assumes you
      already have on hand. All that effort, plus the cleanup, is hardly
      worth it.

      Ramen noodles, by contrast, are a dish of effortless purity. Like
      the egg, or tea, they attain a state of grace through a marriage
      with nothing but hot water. After three minutes in a yellow bath,
      the noodles soften. The pebbly peas and carrot chips turn
      practically lifelike. A near-weightless assemblage of plastic and
      foam is transformed into something any college student will
      recognize as food, for as little as 20 cents a serving.

      There are some imperfections. The fragile cellophane around the
      ramen brick tends to open in a rush, spilling broken noodle bits
      around. The silver seasoning packet does not always tear open
      evenly, and bits of sodium essence can be trapped in the foil
      hollows, leaving you always to wonder whether the broth, rich and
      salty as it is, is as rich and salty as it could have been. The
      aggressively kinked noodles form an aesthetically pleasing nest in
      cup or bowl, but when slurped, their sharp bends spray droplets of
      broth that settle uncomfortably about the lips and leave dots on
      your computer screen.

      But those are minor quibbles. Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an
      eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to
      fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and
      you don't have to teach him anything.


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