Friday, August 23, 2013

Reading Notes: Instant Noodles

Summer holidays are behind me and I am back at work which means , once again, less time for original blog content. As if NPR food blog, The Salt, knew that I didn't have time to come up with my own content, earlier this week they put out a great post on the global popularity of instant noodles. Elsewhere on this blog I mentioned how my time at boarding school gave me a real fondness for instant noodles so it always gives me a twang of sadness when someone  is dismissive or worse, hyper critical of instant noodles.  In boarding school we ate instant noodles because we thought the school food was "gross," because they were easy to make ( we could even eat them raw, sometimes mixed into a bag of chips), because we could get them cheap and because it was easy to add things to them like chili powder, dried mushrooms, vegetable  and cheese to customize and improve the taste.  The NPR article points out that these are many of the same reasons that instant noodles are popular all over the world: 
 it's the multinational noodle companies' conquest of countries like Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Brazil and Mexico that really interests the anthropologists: Frederick Errington of Trinity College, Tatsuro Fujikura of Kyoto University and Deborah Gewertz of Amherst College. And it's here that they make one of their most intriguing arguments: Instant noodles do good by alleviating the hunger of millions of people around the world. These supercheap, superpalatable noodles, they write, help the low-wage workers in rich and poor countries alike hang on when the going gets tough."They're cheap and tasty and tweakable," Gewertz tells The Salt. "They're capable of being transformed to everyone's cultural taste."In Thailand, instant ramen is seasoned with lemongrass and cilantro. Mexicans can buy Maruchan noodle soup cups flecked with shrimp, lime and habarnero , among other flavors. Papua New Guineans have incorporated the noodles into rituals as cardinal as weaning babies and honoring the dead, she says.


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