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June 24, 2024

Everybody Loves Ramen, or Guilty Pleasures

By Piker Staff

Oh, quit trying to convince everyone that you only eat healthy fresh food. Almost everyone has some nasty craving for foods that are less than gourmet. Maybe it's Vienna Sausages. Maybe it's those four-for-a-dollar chicken pot pies. Maybe it's nachos made with jar cheese and barbecue flavored potato chips ... you'll note, as some Filthy Pikers share their thoughts, that not one of them mentioned chocolate, Bane of Waistlines everywhere. Hmm. Probably because not a one of them feels guilty about it.

Lydia Manx grouses:

Somehow our weekly Piker meeting conversation went to ramen noodles and how we augmented the common college staple in our kitchen. Further into the discussion we had lots of talk about the guilty pleasures of enjoying something from our younger selves' dietary missteps. It was then I had to admit that I didn't much care for the salt lick of a meal and really didn't have a clue how to fix the package up with anything other than water and a wayward gag reflex or three. After the group finished mocking my idea of guilty pleasure meals and cast a few comments towards my vampire characters' choices of dining pleasures I was stuck with an assignment of writing about ramen.

Naturally since it is a non-fiction slice I jumped onto the computer and ran "Top Ramen" through my search engine. There were an amazing number of links. Then I found this site: and there were recipes including Spam with Ramen! So ... combining two of my least favorite meals rendering a meal I doubt I would ever eat no matter how hungry. I tried to get some ideas of what to do with the package of dried noodles and soup mix but kept gagging on the thought of testing it. I shoved the idea to the back of my brain and conveniently off-lined the article.

We had another meeting and were reminded stories were due in soon for the Ramen topic. I grumbled and said I had no recipes for the dried noodle goop. They teased me that I must have something in my various cookbooks. I countered if I did they could stay in the cookbooks. Ramen joins a list of 'food' I don't eat. Spam, Ramen, Spaghetti-Os and the assorted canned fake Italian are the top contenders. I do enjoy a good slice of ham, some Japanese noodles and other real meals. The fast food dinners never interested me. Blame all those years I was a babysitter and had to shovel such 'delights' into kids reluctant faces not realizing how bad that it tasted.

I again tried to come up with some sort of Ramen dish. Nothing worked. I got sick -- not from Ramen but a cold -- and wasn't thinking clearly and still didn't have any combination of noodles and eggs or whatever to submit for anyone's reading pleasure. I asked some college kids what was best with Ramen and got the reply, "Lots of beer!" Hmm, I doubt that was what Piker Press was looking for as a menu suggestion.

So if you want Ramen recipes hit the link above and don't blame me if you don't like the results. I really don't know what goes best with Ramen. If you can think of something please feel free to send all comments to the editors of Piker Press! Who knows, maybe you will get the next cover story.

Jerry Seeger confesses:

I Like Potted Meat

There is no rational explanation for it, I just do.

For lunch today I went the simple route -- fresh Czech bread, cheese, and a little tub of something that, according to the label, had once been associated with chickens in some way or another. I pulled back the heavy foil lid and there it was, pink and homogenous. Mmm ... potted meat.

This stuff was on the pink side. I looked at it for a moment and wondered if there was any difference between this stuff and cat food, besides the label. Some cat food claims to have extra vitamins and provide a more balanced diet, so, ignoring issues of quality and health inspections in the factories, cat food may well be healthier.

Still, it doesn't matter what other mammals like this stuff, it's mighty tasty, and the Czech Republic is the place to go for potted meat. They devote more space in their stores to potted meat than they do for ketchup, and that's a lot of space. Beer, of course, has more space on the shelves than any other product. And what better for washing the old chicken goo down than a nice cold one?

Mary Klaebel instructs:

"My Teenager Prepares Ramen"

Preparing Ramen is a delicate art. Much preparation goes into the perfect bowl of this staple food. First, make sure you are using the correct brand of ramen. Maruchan is by far the best on the market. And it sells for $1.44 a case at Wal-Mart.

First, put your water to boil. Next, you take the individual package from the case, place it on the counter. Then take a tenderizing hammer or similar tool, and pound on the package to break the dry noodles up. Be careful not to burst the package. This means you can't pretend to be Gallagher.

After the noodles are sufficiently crushed, open the package and dump them in boiling water. Boil them for approximately three minutes. Then take the pot off of the burner and add the contents of the seasoning mix packet to the noodles. Stir.

Your ramen is now ready to eat. Pour it into a bowl and grab a spoon. If it's too hot, add some ice cubes. There you have it. Perfect ramen.

Cheryl Haimann remembers:

When my husband told me about someone who, while traveling, save money on dining by heating up Vienna sausages on a sunny dashboard, we had a good laugh. But the truth was, inside me, a six-year-old stirred.

Vienna sausages were a staple of our family vacations. We weren't wealthy, but by camping and eating a lot of picnic lunches, we managed to travel all over the country. Those lunches usually consisted of saltines, puffy white bread, and lunch meat or some sort of meat from a can.

Spam and bologna, I could take or leave. They really only captured my attention when they were fried in a skillet, with little slits cut along the edges to keep them from curling too much. That, of course, was not going to happen at a rest area that consisted of a pull-off and a table, and if you were lucky, an outhouse.

But if Mom said, "We have Viennas," that was another story. (Incidentally, we called them "vie-EE-nees", rhyming with "my weinies". I don't know why.) I suppose they had almost the same ingredients as the dreaded bologna, but once they were shaped into little rolls and packed tightly in salty gelatin, they became fun. Jamming a fork in and wiggling the first one loose without breaking it was an exciting challenge.

Warming them up, though? That's for dilettantes.

Dan Mulhollen puts it in perspective:

Ramen as a Creative Tool

While sales of ramen in the United States have grown impressively over the past 30 years, almost nobody would place ramen on their list of favorite foods (a "most despised food", on the other hand ... ) If you go by the instructions on the pack this is somewhat understandable. However I find ramen a great way to use my meager culinary skills to explore the world of cooking. Here are a few tips I've picked up over the years.

First, throw away the seasoning pack. Instead, add a little of your own flavorings to the water. I find a few dashes of hot sauce add a nice bite to the noodles. A dash of lemon juice gives the noodles a subtle tartness.

Most importantly, consider ramen a noodle dish instead of a soup. When the noodles are soft, drain them and discard the water. Also slice the now soft block of noodles lengthwise making them easier to get on your fork.

Butter or margarine make a good base to build upon. Add whatever flavorings (cheese, sauces, spices) you think will go well together. Also remember leftovers -- I've sometimes added chunks of Thanksgiving turkey, a quarter cup or so of Beef Stroganoff, and the remaining sauce from pasta dishes to ramen noodles; all with good results.

Of course, there have been some unsuccessful experiments. Mustard never seems to work well in a ramen dish. Anything involving fruit also seems ill-suited. However I've found that such gastronomic catastrophes are rare. A little common sense will go a long way when figuring what will and what will not work ...

The secret to making ramen is to use your imagination. To that end it is a convenient and inexpensive way to show your creativity in the kitchen.

Sand Pilarski is cheap and easy:

Okay, so I'm a pig. I've got so many guilty pleasures stashed away in my pantry that if the Gourmet Police ever find out about them, I'm going to spend the rest of my life in the Kitchen Slammer.

My mother decided when she was 10 that she hated to cook. At 21, she discovered that her new husband's family didn't care what they ate as long as it was put on the table in front of them. By the time my sister and I got old enough to eat at the table, there were all kinds of easy nasties being served. Now we DID have good stuff like pot roasts and chops and chickens and salads and fresh veggies ... but when time was short, I had a can of Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee spaghetti for lunch, and on long road trips a loaf of bread and one can of potted meat was able to feed a family of four until we could get to better fare.

I can remember having sliced Spam sizzled up to be served with homemade rice pudding; and Vienna sausages were a treat that my father reserved for himself to have with his beer ... sometimes I was allowed to have one.

Canned spaghetti, potted meat, Vienna sausages, Spam ... yep, they're all out there in the pantry -- although I can't bring myself to eat the Spam. It's more my son-in-law's guilty pleasure. And yeah, we always have a case of ramen noodles on hand.

The first time I ever ate ramen noodles was at a friend's girlfriend's family's place. They were Vietnamese, ethnically Chinese, and insisted on feeding their guests. No flavor packets for them -- the ramen noodles were in real chicken broth with hot red peppers snibbled into it. Hot, hot, and heavenly!

When I was skinny, I used to have ramen noodles for my brunch, cooked up with chicken bouillon and parsley and Louisiana Hot Sauce. I always ate them alone, with chopsticks ... to paraphrase Ray Bradbury, "It was a pleasure to glom." Oh, yes, in those skinny days, we used to leave Santa Clause something different on Christmas Eve: we knew he'd had plenty of milk and cookies, so we left him a glass of wine and a can of Vienna sausages. We would have left him ramen noodles but they would have been cold by the time he got to them, and that would never do.

The thing is, those guilty pleasures are treats, not staples. Kind of like chocolate, something to be sampled and savored.

Heh. Except I feel about chocolate the same way Lydia feels about ramen.

Article © Piker Staff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-04-02
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