Thursday, November 06, 2008

“Invasion of the Squiggles – Chapter Two”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was early on a Tuesday morning. Rain tapped gently at the window in our home office, filling the murky grayness with rhythmic energy. Liz, my wife, was on her way to work. Our daughters had been dutifully fed, outfitted, hugged, and sent on their way to school. Now, only household pets remained to share the awakening day. At last, it was time for breakfast… and wordsmithing.

Quietly, I sat at the computer with a bowl of Ramen Noodles. News headlines filled the monitor with tidbits of mayhem and glee. But my eyes were lazy. Blurred images swam across my field of vision. I nodded off in the midst of a story about bicycle use among residents on The Northcoast… and then…


The telephone was ringing, furiously. Each jangle of tones sent a lightning bolt surging through my head. I pawed for the receiver, still numb and helpless.

“Hello!” I babbled. “This is The Icehouse. We are not interested in encyclopedias, aluminum siding, landscaping, a home gym, or a new car. At the tone, please leave your message…”

“Rodney,” my spouse intoned with confusion. “Is this you or a new recording on our voice mail?”

Her voice split the haze. Reflexively, I dropped the phone.

“Hey!” she squawked. “Are you okay? Answer me, Rodney!!”

My face burned. Somehow, I found the handset. “Who is this??”

“Your wife!” she giggled.

“Your voice did sound familiar,” I yawned.

“Stop being a goof! Were you back in bed?” she said with amusement.

“No,” I explained. “Just having breakfast while I catch up on the news…”

There was a pause. “Just tell me you’re having something healthy like fruit or yogurt for a change!”

I rubbed my eyes. “Yeah, both of those…”

“Liar!” she snorted. “You made Ramen Noodles again, right?”

I began to tremble with guilt. My fork clinked against the bowl.

“I heard that!” she sang, gleefully.

“Just peeling an apple,” I said.

“You fibber!” she laughed.

My thoughts began to clear. “Uhmm, I mean… chopping a pear?”

She sighed. “Liarrrr!”

Steam wafted from my noodles. “I can’t help it. Soccer Fairy got me hooked on ‘Squiggles’ again…”

“Don’t blame our ten-year old!” she said with indifference.

“Lately, she’s wanted them every day,” I protested. “It brought back memories of studying in New York. Suddenly, my old craving returned…”

Liz giggled again. “Oh Rodney…”

“Anyway, listen to this,” I interjected. Dramatically, I began to read from Nissin company literature on the Internet:

“The noodle isn't just a meal. It's a steaming hot celebration of texture and flavor. We understand the noodle better than anyone. With Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, we taught an entire generation that quality Ramen Noodle soup is never more than three minutes away. Today, we're still taking the noodle to exciting new places with our Chow Mein, Chow Pasta, Souper Meal and Choice Ramen products - each created for your busy lifestyle.”

“I think you’ve gone noodle crazy,” she barked.

“My appetite led to a bit of investigation this morning,” I replied. “Have you ever wondered about the history of Ramen Noodles?”

She wheezed. “Well, no…not really…”

“The original Ramen was a Japanese dish that came from China,” I proclaimed.

“Linguistic experts have several theories about the origin of this word. It may have been a version of the Chinese ‘lamian’ which means hand-pulled noodles. Or of ‘lo-mein’ which means to dredge up, referring to how the noodles are prepared in boiling water.”

There was silence on the telephone. My wife was genuinely speechless.

“In the middle Twentieth Century, Ramen became a popular item at restaurants in Japan,” I observed. “They were even sold from handcarts by street vendors, like Hot Dogs would be offered here in America.”

Liz glowed with wonder. “So where did those noodle bricks come from?”

“Ah… the modern history is even more curious,” I said. “Listen to this timeline from Nissin Foods…” I read out loud from the company website:

“1958 - Momofuku Ando establishes Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. of Japan.
Mr. Ando introduces Chikin Ramen (Chicken Ramen), the first instant Ramen Noodle, to Japan.
1970 - Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. establishes Nissin Foods (USA) Co., Inc. in Gardena, California.
The Top Ramen brand is imported from Japan, introducing instant Ramen Noodles to US consumers.
1971 - Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. invents Cup Noodle, a revolution in the industry that makes it possible to package, prepare and serve noodles all in the same container.
Nissin also adds vegetable and meat varieties to its instant Ramen Noodle lineup.
1972 - Top Ramen is first produced in the United States.
1973 - Nissin begins producing and selling the highly popular Cup O' Noodles in the United States.
1976 - Oodles of Noodles bag Ramen (is) introduced.”

“And the rest is history,” my wife purred.

“Wait, there’s more!” I said emphatically. “Did you know that Ramen Noodles have traveled with the astronauts?”

She gasped. “You’re making this up!”

“Not at all,” I protested. “Space Ram is a version of the dish that can be cooked during a mission to the cosmos. It debuted on the Space Shuttle in 2005.”

“Rodney!” she hissed. “Stop it!”

Once more, I began to read from the computer:

“The zero-gravity blend adopts several changes to Cup Noodle recipe to meet shuttle standards: The stringy or dangling noodles typical of Nissin's products has been replaced with ball-shaped pasta for easier consumption by a fork. The soup, which comes in four flavors - soy, miso, curry and pork broth - is thicker to prevent spills. The meal is spicier than Cup Noodles, as foods generally tend to taste bland in space. As no boiling water is available on the shuttle, the soup has been reformulated to cook in seventy-degree liquid. Though Nissin has patented Space Ram, the company has no plans for its public sale at this time.”

Liz surrendered. “I give up. Eat your noodles, and be happy!”

“Mr. Ando passed away in 2007,” I said.

“Isn’t Ando a character on the NBC ‘Heroes’ program?” she wondered aloud.

I nearly lost track of my thoughts. “Yes, but… anyway…his legacy remains forever! What would college life be like without Ramen? It’s a culinary innovation that can be enjoyed by everyone. A perfect ingredient in the great ‘Melting Pot’ that is America…”

“Rah Rah Ramen!” she said. “Oh well, my coffee break is over. Happy wordsmithing! See you this evening. I love you!”

The phone clicked in my ear.

Now it was time at last… to finish my breakfast!

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