Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Three-minute Silence

Meanwhile, the world mourns Momofuko Ando - the inventor of Ramen noodles - a man whose work has touched so many of our lives.

Here's the PhD Comic Tribute

And here's a lovely appreciation by Lawrence Downes over at the New York Times.

Personally, I don't eat anywhere near as much Ramen as my single student status would suggest, and then only with additional vegetables to make it a better, more balanced meal (Mom, Dad: Please note!), but I still can't help feeling a sense of attachment to the man who single-handedly doubled my cooking repertoire.

The thing about making Ramen is, it's such a mystical experience, isn't it? It's almost like inspiration. There you are with this set of notions curled and tightly packed together, and then you break this mass of solid confusion into a few smaller pieces (taking care to catch the little bits that fly loose when you do this), let them simmer for a while, and before you know it you can reach in there and draw out one clear strand of an idea, which you then have to loop about in words to keep it from slipping back into the general mess. And each time you do this it seems a little bit of a miracle - you're never sure at what point the dense coils of data turned into a palatable idea, and it's always hard to believe that the transformation really worked. People say PhD students eat a lot of Ramen because it's cheap and easy to make, but I think it's because of the nature of this transformation, because we secretly dream of the day when our research can go from data to results in just three minutes [1].

Notes

[1] This 2-3 minute thing, is, of course, a total con. Sure, cooking Ramen takes three minutes - assuming you just happen to have a pot with 2 cups of boiling water handy and like your noodles on the seriously al dente side.

I wonder if there are people who seriously time themselves to make Ramen? Do they spend years in training try to break the 2-minute Ramen? Is it likely to become an Olympic event?

12 comments:

Ph said...

Of course. Why didn't I think of that.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely link between ideas and ramen noodles! Nice post :). ~ Anindita

Revealed said...

Heh! I *have* timed it, and it does *not* take 2 or 3 minutes. 5 minutes if you happen to have said cups of boiling water handy! *rereads comment and resolves to get a life*

km said...

Well, there's *always* the option of eating the noodles *straight* out of the packet. Slightly lacerated intestines are another matter.

Either way, this guy set the international benchmark for all instant noodles. This is a true universal constant, not unlike "g" or speed of light.

meditativerose said...

what .. no murakami reference?

Anonymous said...

"we secretly dream of the day when our research can go from data to results in just three minutes "

Nope. We secretly dream of the day when our ideas rise like delicate souffles, precious, fragile, yet holding their own. Till (as they must) they collapse under the weight of our own expectations and lack of expertise. (well, one food metaphor is as good as the other, no?)

yer got it wrong Falsie. Phd students eat so much Ramen precisely because it reminds them so faithfully of their own data: cheap and easy to cook.

n!

Anonymous said...

hey! just stumbled by from .. uh, some common link which I can't remember :)

I LOVE the last anon comment btw :) _Very True_

and yes - no murakami reference? really?

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Amadeus said...

ramen...oh ramen. While a freshman in college, I lived on it for almost a year. I learn to be very creative with it--adding carrots and cabbage--but mostly just margerine. At times I would use the 25 cent macaroni and cheese packets to make cheese ramen, while other times making ramen flavored macaroni. Your post sure brought back memories. Thanks! :)

Peace and Joy to you!

~Amadeus

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