Sunday, June 15, 2008

In which I draw perhaps the first comparison ever between a successful modern author and Top Ramen

Back when I was still dating my last boyfriend, I had a dream about him one night in which he told me he'd taken up smoking. In the dream, I was not so much angry as baffled. "Who takes up smoking at 34?!?" I asked (ever the logical realist that I am). Smoking is something you try out in high school or college, and if you're still doing it at 34, it's because of a habit formed long, long ago. Nobody starts smoking at 34, right?

I feel like I'm in a similar spot myself at the moment. Tonight, at age 34, I had Ramen noodles for the first time.

Don't ask me how I got through four+ years of college and all of my 20s without ever dropping ten-cent packets of Top Ramen in my grocery cart. Apparently I was far too fixated on 69-cent Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or the delicacy that were the English Muffin pizzas my senior year roommate introduced into my life. In any case, for whatever reason (Fear of poverty? Devil-may-care attitude toward my slightly elevated blood pressure? Fondness for Noelle?), I bought Ramen for the first time ever last week.

Newsflash, in case you weren't aware: a valid student ID is not required to purchase Ramen noodles. Who knew? Oh, right. Most of you, I guess.

I know there are a hundred different ways to eat Ramen, and maybe I need to look into them to understand all the hype. Because to me, it was just noodles in a salty broth. Tasty enough, sure, and well worth the mere 20 cents I paid for that meal, but frankly, nothing special, I have to say. Either people speak so highly of Ramen because of their long-term emotional attachment to it, or I am doing something very wrong. If you've got any suggestions, feel free to weigh in, because I've still got forty cents worth of noodles in my cupboard to experiment with.

Let's see. What else have I been up to lately, aside from experimenting with mundane groceries? It has been a stupidly busy couple of weeks, and I considered compiling a bulleted list of everything I've done post-work-hours in the past 15 days or so, but I fall back on the bulleted list post of laziness far too often, so let's just fast forward to this weekend, shall we?

This weekend, I went to the fourth annual Twin Cities-area Lebowskifest, which is not so much a full-blown "fest" as a modest gathering of fewer than 20 people in a west suburban home, but it was a fun time anyway. I will probably eventually post my photos from the night on Flickr, though I'm uncertain whether I should make them all public or not. It was a The Big Lebowski-themed costume party, of course, and I decided to go as a White Russian, which means I showed up in white pants and a white t-shirt on which I used iron-on transfer paper to affix bright red and gold hammer and sickle symbols that were appropriate enough for the evening's festivities but might be taken out of context if posted on these here interwebs. I'd hate to have my hopes for public office dashed by the unfortunate surfacing of photos of me in Communist garb. Then again, the likelihood of my running for public office is probably just about as high as the likelihood of my becoming a card-carrying Communist, so I suppose I'm probably safe. My late-night costume change into a t-shirt bearing Jackie Treehorn's obscene doodle (the hostess's boyfriend brought a stack of said shirts to distribute to anyone willing to wear them) might actually conflict with Flickr's terms of use, however, so maybe at least that photo should remain private.

Today I finally saw the much-hyped Sex & the City movie, and, formulaic and predictable as it was, I still enjoyed it more than this evening's Top Ramen. People, I actually teared up no fewer than three times in the course of that movie. Please tell me I'm not the only one who did so, OK?

Oh, and in far more notable news, I finally finished the book that has been sitting in my sidebar for no fewer than two months. Long ago, I started (and then just as suddenly stopped) doing this thing where I posted less-than-ten-word reviews of the books I had read. I think I'll pick that up again for Bel Canto, except I'll provide my review in just one word:


It may have won an Orange Prize and a Pen/Faulkner Award, but I still don't understand all the fuss. I suppose you could say Bel Canto is like Ramen noodles: beloved by many; misunderstood and underappreciated by me.

And finally, I'd be much remiss in failing to follow up on that quasi-contest I held last week. Thank you all for sharing your tales of kindred spirit-esque ineptitude and alarming gracelessness. It is a tough call which one of you had the best injury to beat my balloon-incident and bathroom-cleaning woes. So many of you had such very excellent stories, but I'm going to have to say the three-way-tie prize goes to the following:

  1. Liz, who tripped on her lawn mower and ended up with $16,000 worth of surgery to insert a plate into her arm,
  2. Poppy, who set herself on fire while making tea (apparently not even using a gas burner with an open flame),
  3. Metalia, who recently gashed her leg with a vegetable. (Note to self: Consider this one more reason you've never actually had an artichoke.)

Unfortunately, there are no real prizes in this little contest, aside from my sincere amusement and gratitude. So thanks for that, friends. So nice to know we klutzes aren't alone.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you re: SATC. Formulaic, predictable and really kind of enjoyable in spite of it all. I totally cried, too. And I hardly ever wanted to smack Carrie, which is impressive.

Anonymous said...

Um, hi. That was from me. Heather. Loooong weekend!

3carnations said...

So you've not actually "taken up Ramen", then? I've also never had them. But then again, I'm not quite yet 34. ;) Maybe my time is coming...

Mair said...

1. After two decades of eating Ramen, there came a fateful day in which I learned that the noodles were fried. And suddenly, the nutritional information on the packet made sense. I haven't had any since, though man, I want to.

2. Your costume is AWESOME.

3. Best book review ever. That is how I feel about SO MANY books.

4. I wish I had more items, but I'm blanking here.

Anonymous said...

Ramen is like Top Gun: it's not actually any good, but people like it because it makes you all nostalgic for Back Then.

(There are actual restaurants where you can buy actual ramen, which is much better than the $0.15 stuff. I wouldn't give up on ramen altogether.)

Anonymous said...

Also, this post made me want to eat ramen.

Anonymous said...

Definitely teared up during SATC. Sometimes happy tears. Sometimes sympathetic tears.

And I am craving ramen too.

Noelle said...

I'm not eating Ramen this month because of no-fried foods June, but now I want to. One of the beauties of it is that you have a meal in 3 minutes (or a little more if you add vegetables). But I'm glad you finally got to give it a go!

I also have to respectfully disagree with you on Bel Canto, I loved it. Except the very end, which made me throw the book across the room.

lizgwiz said...

I'm so pleased to be a "winner." How ironic that I read the news mere seconds after making my monthly payment on the $16,000 debt. ;)

I always drain the broth and eat the ramen as noodles, not soup. And you can throw in veggies and an egg to make it a more well-rounded meal. I guess the biggest reason for their continued appeal is that they're just so gosh-darned cheap and easy. (Insert your own "like me" joke here.)

Anonymous said...

I have never had ramen, AND I have never seen The Big Lebowski!

The last four books I have read have all been really good. I am pretty impressed with my book-picking talent lately.

shelleycoughlin said...

Ha! I love that -R- is impressed with her book-picking abilities.

I do not love Ramen, either. Nor did I love Bel Canto. I also didn't like SATC, but I'm probably on my own there.

Anonymous said...

I, too, join the masses to express my love for your costume.

My advice re: Ramen is this: do not eat it as soup. Instead, drain the liquid from the noodles after cooking, then add approximately half of the flavor packet (using the whole thing yields too-salty noodles, in my book). Mix well. I suspect you could add some chicken or mushrooms or something as well, but that's too fancy for me.

Have I ever told you that I used to make my Ramen in a coffee pot in college?

Oh, and I haven't seen SATC.

L Sass said...

I don't really "get" Ramen, either. Sigh.

ALSO--I totally teared up toward SATC, too. That was the problem with the movie for me! It got too darn sad in the middle to recover!

Whiskeymarie said...

I haven't had ramen in YEARS, but now I'm craving it. I usually drained off the liquid too and just ate the noodles plain. I gave up eating them when I found out they were fried- they don't taste good enough to warrant the clogged arteries.

Anonymous said...

My love for Ramen goes in cycles, I will eat it twice a week for a month and then not again for years. I lived at home through college, so I really don't have a valid cost-saving excuse for it (except that my folks like them). My father has been known to crush an entire roll of Ritz crackers and add them in. Here I thought using the entire seasoning packet was salty. I think adding in a whole stack of crackers goes beyond a lax attitude towards sodium intake and is downright suicidal...
Your White Russian costume was awesome! I would love to steal the idea, but I think the folks down here (who don't know the difference between socialism and communism) might use it as another excuse to call me pinko.

Anonymous said...

If you would like to truly appreciate ramen, you must watch the movie Tampopo, provided you are okay with the "food + sex = supersexysex" theme running through part of the movie.

Sizzle said...

I have no idea why but I could never finish Bel Canto.

Courtney said...

1. You are not alone; I totally teared up at SATC too. I did not sob hysterically, however, unlike many women in the audience.

2. Ramen is good, but it's mostly nostalgic. This is going to sound weird, but you should eat the noodles dry. It's good, I promise.

3. I LOVE that you went dressed as a White Russian, although I'm not sure I could have resisted the urge to dress like Walter Sobchek.

That is all. Carry on.

Maddie said...

I like the ramen/smoking comparison.

Poppy said...

Today is random comment day for me!, therefore I submit to you: Did you know there's a very famous worm called Ramen? As in, a computer worm... Yah. Ok, google it.

And, because Dawg told me how much he loves the red Ramen I bought an entire 8-pack last week at the store. That's true love right there.

Stefanie said...

Heather--Hello, friend. Were you my anonymous commenter last week, too?

3Cs--You do like to point out those few months older than you I am, don't you? ;-)

Mair--They are fried? But WHY? Very strange.

Srah--That's just as good a comparison as my smoking one, isn't it?

Pam--Oh good. Glad I'm not the only one. (About the movie, I mean. Not about the Ramen.)

Noelle--See, this is where I'm confused, though. How is it only three minutes if you need to boil the water first and THEN cook them for three minutes? I'm overthinking this, aren't I? Still, sounds like false advertising to me.

Oh, and I agree with you: on one hand, I respect the realistic ending in the house. On the other hand, hey, no fair. And then the end after the end? The epilogue? WTF?? I can totally see why you wanted to hurl the book. I might have done the same, except it's Lara's copy. :-)

Liz--Monthly payment? Yikes! No health insurance at the time? That sucks. And I did drain the broth, as I've heard that's what most people do. I don't understand this egg thing people keep mentioning, though. You drop a raw egg in? While it's boiling, or after that? I'm confused. (Yes, I am confused by the complexity of Ramen. Clearly they'd never take me in "Nensa" after all.) ;-)

R--What have you been reading lately? Do you have a book list on your blog? (Why am I asking in my own comments instead of just popping over to look?)

NPW--Well, two out of three isn't a bad match.

Lara--I don't know that one prior comment equals "masses," but thank you anyway. :-) And I did drain the noodles, per the Internet's wisdom, but perhaps I should have laid off the seasoning as you suggested as well.

L Sass--I know, right? Just when I thought I was all composed again, they made me cry once more!

WM--I had no idea I was going to set off such a chain of ramen craving. Sorry.

Badger Reader--Heh. Pinko. That's funny.

Srah--I don't know what that means, but I am intrigued.

Sizzle--Maybe because it got dreadfully boring through most of the middle? That's what killed it for me...

Courtney--I didn't sob hysterically, but I did have to blow my sniffly nose twice. And we did have a Walter Sobchek at the party. Guess I really should post those photos...

Pants--Almost as unlikely as the Bel Canto/Ramen comparison, right?

Poppy--I did NOT know that. You are a wealth of nerdy information, as per usual. And "Red Ramen"? He specifies his flavor choice by color? That's funny. :-)

Poppy said...

Yes, he specifically told me he likes Red Ramen, but then didn't tell me which of the two brands. I apparently chose wisely, because when we were at the grocery store getting one of the cereals for CW he pointed to the brand he likes and it was the one I chose. PHEW for Psychic Poppy!

Poppy said...

PS - I knew setting myself on fire when I was 10 would pay off someday! Or, not pay, rather. WOOT to the win!

Anonymous said...

How to appreciate real ramen:

lizgwiz said...

FYI: if you truly want to make the ramen quickly, just stick it in the water and put the whole mess in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. Drain and you're done.

Akkire said...

i started bel canto along time ago, and maybe because I had to put it down and leave the copy at my friends, the book has held an allure for me. maybe i never got to the slow dull part of how they turn one night into a novel. the opening is really gripping and exciting.

maybe as an addendum you could put your bulleted list?

the way i like ramen is sort of like Noelle - i cook the noodles but only add half or 1/4 of the packet, then add a little Braggs amino acids (like soy sauce), some mushrooms, carrots, broccoli and viola - instant stir fry.

Mickey said...

Break off cracker-sized chunk of uncooked ramen. Use to scoop up baked beans. Insert in mouth. Chew happily. Repeat.

If you think this bit of culinary genius was the result of having only those two items available when hunger struck, you are correct. Has it been repeated? Maybe once. Not as good the second time.

Poppy said...

Mickey's comment made me giggle-snort-cackle. :)

Paisley said...

My post just got eaten!

How appropriate...

I used to love Ramen when I was little. I'd cook it and drain out the liquid and just eat the noodles.

I craved it when pregnant. So weird. It was the only thing I could eat for a few weeks along with canned fruit cocktail.