And now we bring you a brief, but necessary tribute to noodle soup.
I’m a life long lover of ramen. That warm, salty seniorita that fills my deep bowls and warms my winter nights. (I really am just talking about soup, y’all, so just stop right there.)
I mean, what’s better than warm flavorful broth swimming with succulent noodles? Nothing, that’s what.
My mom always kept packages of Maruchan Ramen around the house when I was a kid (pictured below). Chicken flavor. Oriental. Shrimp. It was just always there. Peanut butter and jelly. Egg sandwiches. Ramen. It was always a staple. A quick lunch. A late night snack. Two cups of water and three minutes and you’re in heaven, slurping away.
Until recently, I thought, with a naiveté that at the moment seems borderline unforgivable, that my beloved ramen bowls were, well…real ramen. I never weighed them in terms of their authenticity, or their relationship to other versions of ramen that may or may not exist in the world. I pay a little attention to food and food writing, and if you do, you’ve no doubt noticed that ramen is trendy right now. Trendy enough, anyway, for ramen shops to be popping up all over and for McSweeney’s new food mag Lucky Peach to have dedicated their entire first issue solely to the subject of ramen. Long story short, come to find out, instant ramen, which I will still always love no matter what, is pretty much the Kraft Mac and Cheese of its species.
For today, I had a bowl of ramen that changed everything. Take a look.
Here. I’ll put it beside a bowl of instant ramen, the kind to which I feel such old time affection. See if you can spot the difference.
The broth. Good God the broth.Not to mention rare cooked beef. Fresh sliced red chills. Cilantro. Scallions. Bean sprouts. Slivered red onions. Lime wedge.
It came with a spoon that would better be characterized as a small ladle.
Friends, consider my mind blown.
It was ten degrees today in Cambridge, MA, where I’m holed up for my MFA residency, and the bowl of ramen on the right sent the light through the window in a way I’d never quite seen it before. I saw generations of Japanese people slurping down bowls of this stuff, whole empires relying on it for comfort and sustenance. Battlefields made less bloody. Winters less harsh. Lover’s faces more beautiful and necessary. Stomachs a little happier. Lives a little more fulfilled.
Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s just soup.
Except it’s not. It wasn’t.
Happy eating, world.