Days of Beer and Ramen

Beer, ramen and porno are the three staples of bachelorhood—cheap, fast, dependable. But as a result of my nuptials of two years ago, my consumption of all three has fallen dramatically. Well, except for the porno.

According to Nissin Foods, which introduced Top Ramen and Cup Noodles to the U.S. in the early 1970s, Americans devour nine portions of it per capita per year (the Japanese eat 45). Much of that is ingested by college students who see it as a great way to stretch a budget while allowing them to eat and study simultaneously. As I had functional credit cards in college, I eschewed ramen for beer and pizza. It wasn't until afterward, with my cards maxed out and a B.A. in English, that I came to appreciate Nissin's products.

Soon, I was developing endless ways of preparing the dehydrated noodle. Spaghetti was easy: just boil ramen and add Ragu. Eventually, I found ketchup a lot easier than ready-made spaghetti sauce. Plus, cleanup was a breeze.

I created Lo Mein Lemons by stir-frying the noodles with egg and veggies in a pan with a little oil. You didn't even have to boil the noodles first; just crumble them up dry in the pan and stir with the other ingredients. The results were not always appetizing—or safe. I nearly set the stove on fire once.

Breakfast consisted of ramen, Nutrasweet and raisins and/or cinnamon sprinkled on top. I made myself sick a couple of times by adding vanilla extract. Such culinary missteps are to be expected, convenience being king for bachelors, especially those on the hunt for drunk food. When I rolled home from a bar one morning, I discovered that dry ramen, straight from the package, was scrumptious. I hammered the package until the ramen square was broken up, then ate it out of the bag. This became my preferred method of consuming ramen. I ate it morning, noon and night, usually in front of my computer. The chair I sat in was forever surrounded by a ring of dry ramen bits, and there are still ramen crumbs in my keyboard.

More nutritious and satisfying meals mainly involved adding to ramen's noodle base. I'd select any soup I happened to be fond of—cream of mushroom, clam chowder—and pour in the cooked ramen noodles.

The stock that accompanies the ramen isn't bad. So if I was in “Iron Chef” mode, I'd cruise Asian grocery stores and choose from any of a number of fish cakes and fish balls that are pre-cooked and ready to add to a broth. Friends, you haven't lived until you've tasted fish balls! Tofu was good as well after I'd cut it into chunks.

One of my most successful concoctions involved taking frozen spinach, chopped—but not too finely—boiling it and dumping it in some cooked ramen minus any soup or water. Then I'd take feta cheese from Trader Joe's and mix it in. It's about as close as you can come to Gourmet Ramen.

Of course, Momofuku Ando, the man who invented Top Ramen, did not set out to feed the unwed males of the world. Back in 1948, when he founded Nissin, Momofuku wanted to tackle post-war Japan's food shortage with this easy-to-prepare twist on a Japanese favorite.

The Japanese buy higher quality ramen like we buy pasta and boil it. Back in the day, they'd even make their own from scratch. Momofuku (which is how the Japanese refer to the Oedipus complex . . . or, at least they should) knew his countrymen were too busy rebuilding the nation to cook. His ramen was ready to eat in three minutes. In 1958, his Chicken Ramen became the first to hit Japanese supermarkets.

Today, we have dozens of flavors such as picante beef and cajun chicken. You can still get an 8-pack for 96 cents at Ralphs. All that taste with plenty of scrilla left over to stuff into Candi's G-string.

Those were the days, my friend, and yes, I thought they'd never end. Then I met my wife, who, for all her admirable qualities, did not look kindly upon the ramen bits in my carpet, couch, bed and sometimes hair. Reform came slowly, but now I eat actual meals and hardly ever touch ramen at all. Once in a while, while shopping with my beloved, I will gaze longingly at the dry soup section. That is, until my wife socks me in the arm and points me in the direction of the fresh produce.

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