the noodle narratives


So after reading this NPR article, which discusses what else but my favorite topic on earth, I had to read this book. Having had the opportunity of attending a teensy-tiny, middle-of-nowhere liberal arts college, nothing entices me more than tearing through a book that scrutinizes a ubiquitous yet innocuous product of global capitalist provisioning and its implications on society - both positive and negative - especially when the discussion takes place within the context of food. The Noodle Narrative's three authors examine the role of instant noodles in people's lives across three very different markets: Japan - the birthplace of instant noodles, where they occupy a space of cultural obsession spawning a slew of zany flavors; the United States - where instant noodles have come to  represent a symbol of transition, in which one moves from less-fortunate circumstances to hopefully better ones (ie. college, prison, poverty); Papua New Guinea - a relative newcomer into the sphere of instant noodle influence where mostly poor people enjoy it for a taste of modernity meanwhile fulfilling aspirations of participating in global consumer culture.

While Errington, Fujikura, Gewertz don't quite proffer instant noodles as the ultimate cure for world hunger, they argue that the flash fried noodle blocks do hold tremendous potential. That perhaps after some tweaks to its nutritional content - less sodium and fortified with vitamins and nutrients - it may become a much more viable solution. However, as with any dirt-cheap commodity available in nearly every international market, there comes a dark side. With instant noodles, it's palm oil. I wish the authors had elaborated more on palm oil exploitation (seeing as how I am an environmental studies major and all holla), but that discussion along with the discussion about instant noodles as a product of "big food" felt brief and glossed over given the global implications of an almost-too-convenient answer to such a massive humanitarian problem.

Below is an interview conducted by The Ramen Rater with the three authors if you'd like to hear more about the book.

Totally recommend The Noodle Narratives if you like reading about globalization, anthropology, food, and duh ramen.