Beep. Beep. Beep.
With a deep sigh I drag myself off the couch and trudge my way to the kitchen. The obnoxiously orange cabinets look even more like an eyesore under the sterile, fluorescent ceiling light. I see the surface littered with water spots due to constantly flicking water from my fingertips when using the sink nearby. Speckled across the brown, marbled countertop are grimy, black spots that I can’t decipher as a part of the stone or dirt building up. Dragging my finger across the top, it comes to a stop as I feel the friction of crud scratching the pad. Dirt it is, but the last thing I want to do tonight is clean. That is a tomorrow problem, and don’t even get me started on cooking. With that, I open the microwave.
As I pull the handle of the microwave, a waft of steam blasts me in the face. Carefully, I grab the nearest dish towel and wrap it around the ceramic mug inside the machine, the tufts of the cloth protecting my skin from the heat. Walking slowly so as to not spill any of the hot water, I carry the liquid over to the counter where a styrofoam cup is waiting for me. Angling my hand, I pour the water in, a few drops dribble down the edge until the noodles inside are soaked. Reaching over for my phone, I set an alarm for five minutes and begin the wait for my Cup Noodles. For a second, if I close my eyes, I can almost imagine the smell of the rich chicken broth I wish I really had.
When I reopen my eyes, I am transported away from my dingy college apartment, away from the stress of relationships and never-ending schoolwork, and I am back in my kitchen at home. The exhaust hood whirls to life, the speed of the propellers chopping the air. A candle, with its warm light, is lit and a vanilla scent wafts around the room. But the scented candle doesn’t cover what I yearned for. Turning my head, I can see my mom over the stove making the dinner I spent the majority of my childhood eating when school ended.
Scenes flash through my head. My mom carefully minces the onions and the garlic. She graciously seasons the ground pork with salt and pepper. Delicately, she forms them into little meatballs. She plops them into the chicken broth and adds the noodles. Just like when I was a kid, I go over to the countertop and sit down on the black barstool as she tells me that dinner is ready. I glance down at the bowl before me and my mouth is salivating. Because in front of me is my mom’s almondigas soup.
It’s not a surprise that instant noodles have become the hit that they are today. Originally created in Japan, the food supports the diets of many around the world, there being “5,150 million servings” in the US alone according to the World Instant Noodle Association. Not only are they quick (cooked within 8 minutes) and convenient (you can eat straight out of the container) but they are also incredibly cheap. At Walmart, a pack of 6 will cost about $3! These three factors have ensured that instant ramen noodles are a staple to the college student diet. While they are great on the go and in between classes, there is something lacking and it’s not just fiber and protein. No, what instant ramen can’t provide me with is much more important: love.
If someone were to ask me what my favorite food was, I would not be saying Cup Noodles —don’t get me wrong, the brand has a range of variety that I surely won’t be getting sick of. Instead, I will think of my mother in the kitchen. Each touch, each dressing and each fold was done with care and patience. The time she takes preparing the food can be filled with a fulfilling activity that she would probably enjoy a lot more. But she is doing this for me. The food she makes connects me to not only our culture, but to her as well. Food is something that should bring people whether family or not together, to understand each other and the motivations we have. A microwave can’t do that. Also, it is undisputed that food made with love tastes better according to a 2012 article from the New Zealand Herald!
Bring. Bring. Bring.
My iPhone alarm goes off and I am back in my apartment. I quickly shake my head and glance over at my Cup Noodles. I grab my chopsticks from the drawer and slowly begin to reach for the cup so I can eat my meal on the couch. But suddenly, I stop myself. I don’t want to eat this. Instead, I toss the noodles in the trash and head to the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients.
Visual Credit: Dmitry Dreyer