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An Ode to The Noodle

written by: himali

"An ode to the noodle"

A bowl of hot, mildly-spiced noodle has been the food for my soul for as long as I can remember. Whether I am down with the flu or down in the dumps a bowl of noodles has always been able to boost my spirits. There is something therapeutic about twirling the fork round and round till the noodles are tightly coiled around the prongs and then popping them in the mouth in one quick swoop. Of course, I did not always eat noodles in as civilised manner as this! As a child I would leave one string dangling out of my mouth and then slurp away reeling it in like a fishing line springing with fresh catch!

My first lesson in the art of eating noodles were the American shows on television. I don't remember the name of the show but I distinctly remember the craving for noodles that followed. I remember begging my mother to make me some so that I could test my newly acquired, self-taught skills. It's probably around that time that my obsession with table manners started and the person who had to bear the brunt of this obsession was my little brother! The slightest chomping sound from him and I would be shooting daggers across the table. The merry "chomp chomp, munch munch" would grate on my ears and if the glares would not get the message across I would look down at him and order him to chew with his mouth closed. Not that it would make much of an impact because after a few silent bites the chomping would restart!

I clearly remember the first time I cooked noodles. at the know-it-all age of 10. A packet of instant two-minute noodles! I was on a trip to Nainital with my family, uncles and aunts and a dozen cousins. The adults were out shopping and we kids were hungry! We bought some packets of 2-minute instant noodles and a couple of us volunteered to cook them. The kitchen was in the lodge was in the backyard with no roof over it. We lit a kerosene stove and waited forthe large pot of water to come to a boil, oeeking every few seconds. But the patience of a 10 year old won is much lesser that the boiling point of water. And with a 'What the heck!', we dumped the noodles and the spicy contents of the sachets into the water. And waited for two long minutes. Waited for the simmering mixture in the pot to transform into the promised steaming bowl of mouth-watering noodles. Finally, my wristwatch proclaimed that two minutes had passed. We peered into the pot. One noodle was tentatively lifted for inspection, proclaimed raw and then allowed to slide back into the pot. The boiling continued interrupted by surreptitious glances in the pot every two minutes. This went on for a full twenty minutes. Eventually running out of patience we decided that was it and everyone was going to have to eat these noodles, cooked or not! I don't recollect if the noodles were well-cooked but I do recall the bowls being wiped clean. Probably because by then hunger had been driven to the point of stravtion.

From then on my infatuation which had begun with instant noodles metamorphosed into a full blown love affair with oriental cuisine! I guess it was just fate that while pursuing my Masters in the UK, I shared a flat with one Japanese and two Chinese girls! We had a common kitchen with a dining area and so over the year we spent most of our mealtimes together. They were in awe of my whistling pressure cooker and would maintain a revered distance from it. I was fascinated by the chopsticks. How two narrow wooden sticks could manoeuvre food from the plate to the mouth was unfathomable. One day, my Japanese flatmate presented me with a pair of beautiful carved chopsticks and then between the three of them they started teaching me how to use them. I mastered the art pretty quickly and was so pleased with myself that for a few days I ate everything with the chopsticks, even my Indian breakfast of puffed rice!

During my stay in England, I was flabbergasted with the choice of noodles available to me! Almost an entire aisle in the supermarket was dedicated to my favourite food. Thick and thin, round and flat, different colours and flavours the options were endless. What fascinated me most were the cup noodles. For someone who had grown up on Indian cooking for which an assortment of pots, pans and gadgets were required for a simple meal, cooking in one innocuous looking plastic cup was pure genius! These cup noodles became my best friends during the nights I stayed up studying for my exams or trying to meet deadlines for my assignments.

As the steam curls out of the bowl of noodles in front of me more and more memories rise into my head; my 18th birthday dinner at a posh Chinese restaurant with my family in Bombay, my first date at a noodle bar in Leeds, my first successful foray in the kitchen at home. I guess more than anything else I am enamoured with noodles for the memories they stir up!


Sun, Jul 6, 2008 at 11:32AM

love those noodles .. I like your creativity :)

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