Life is a bowl of noodles

Are you really a college student if you haven’t sat, staring at your dinner consisting of a bowl of ramen noodles while you contemplate the meaning of life?

Before even making ramen noodles there are two decisions to make. First, whether to go with the real ramen in the plastic wrap or to go with the cup-o-noodles, a somehow even cheaper version of the cheapest version of college food. There are advocates for each choice, but it is equivalent to the choice between being an authentic or inauthentic person. Don’t worry, either way you are still ramen noodles. The second choice is flavor: chicken, beef, shrimp? Maybe you create your own unique flavor by combining them or using your own spices. This is purely a preference, similar to a preference of personal characteristics. Are you kind, sarcastic or friendly? Some unique combination thereof? No choice is wrong, yet each creates a different bowl of soup or a different human being. Then, to convert the ramen into soup, you must use boiling water, either through the use of the microwave or the stovetop. Without this step, you would only have a nearly inedible chunk of raw noodles that soak in no flavor of their own. Likewise, without some hardship, your life doesn’t reach its full potential. This “boiling” of life does not have to be in extreme circumstances. It can be an internal struggle, a personal hardship to become a person you like and can be proud of.

Now, the completed bowl of ramen noodles that began this questioning of life sits before you, a bundle of noodles peaking up above the surface of the broth as steam wafts up, up, and away. Have you ever tried to follow one noodle in that mess? If you find an end and simply pull, hoping it to unravel like yarn, you are quick to find out that the noodle simply breaks, leaving a tiny version of the noodle you hoped to uncover in your fingers. If you want to be really methodical about it, I suppose you could carefully unwind this one noodle from among the rest, but it would require you to stick your fingers into the bowl of steaming soup, into the broth that was moments ago boiling. Even further than this pain is the fact that most of the other noodles you carefully try to maneuver out of your way would end up smushed, broken and ice cold by the time you got around to eating them. These noodles represent the different aspects of your individual life. The noodles are family, friends, significant other, school, work, hobbies, passions, duties and a myriad of other more specific noodles that are only in your bowl of soup. To pursue only one of these parts of life leads to either its breakdown or its success with the consequence of every other part of life falling apart. That is the danger of being narrow minded. For example, when your friend is completely consumed with her boyfriend you worry because that concentration can ruin her school work. Each part of life needs its own sense of focus, but not to the exclusion of all others.

Now, munch time. So far, we’ve already established that we aren’t eating them one by one. We are also college students and we don’t have time for that. So you use your fork, and you slurp. You chase uneven noodles with loud, messy slurps and the broth flicks off the ends, splattering the table or pillows around you. Don’t let anyone tell you differently: that is exactly how you are supposed to eat ramen noodles. It is not a dainty dish, it is not a delicacy to be savored for hours. It is a perfect little bowl of soup that is messy. Sure, you don’t look pretty eating it. But that’s life. Life is messy. So be messy, be loud, and slurp away, because it’s your ramen noodles and no one can tell you differently.

Learning to craft an A+ bowl of ramen is one of my life goals. Maybe A+ is never possible, perfection is an impossible pursuit after all, but the path of getting closer and closer to that immaculate, flawless bowl intrigues me. But just as importantly, is my belief that a bowl of ramen, when it’s right, is ethereal and more heartening than any fancy restaurant dish.

Ramen is the food of the proletariat. It is refined yet unpretentious.