Saturday, February 17, 2007

An Obit of Note

In addition to some new home exercises, I carried away from PT on Friday a copy of an obit from The Economist for Momofuku Ando. For some reason, Quentin had thought I might find this interesting, or maybe interesting enough to distract me from that slippery slope I seemed to be sliding down on Thursday when I was questioning my sanity.

Now tell me, honestly, have you ever heard of this guy who died? No, I thought not. But I’ll bet you’ve eaten a shitload of Nissin Ramen over your lifetime. Momo (as I will respectfully call him for short) invented instant noodles in 1957!

Momo’s is really a Horatio T. Alger story set in Japan. Prior to 1957, his life had been a bit of a mess. He had failed at selling any number of things including dress fabrics, engine parts, pre-fab houses, magic-lantern projectors, and socks. He had tried to launch a scholarship scheme for poor students that landed him in jail for tax evasion.

However, on a cold night as he was walking home from work he noticed crowds of people waiting patiently for noodles to be cooked. Why not make it easier? And why not do it himself? thought Momo.

It took him a full year of experimenting in his back shed as he tried to discover the best way to bring noodles back to life. He finally discovered the secret from his wife as she cooked vegetable tempura: flash-fry the cooked noodles in palm oil, making them "magic".

In 1958 his instant noodles went on the market, where they were laughed at by the fresh noodle makers in Japan. By the end of the year, he was laughing at them as he carried his money to the bank after selling 13 million packages of ramen.

The Japanese voted instant ramen their most important 20th century invention. Today the company is a $3 billion global enterprise.

Momo’s homespun philosophy was the underpinning of his venture:

Peace will come when people have food.
Eating wisely will enhance beauty and health.
The creation of food will serve society.

Momo practiced what he preached, eating at least one package of ramen daily until he died at a ripe old age of 96. The next time you dip into a cup of ramen, remember its humble beginnings and give thanks to Momo for his contribution to feeding the world.


Blogger steve said...

Barbara! Where have i been? i have been so bsy that I haVENT EVEN SEEN any of the posts that are "if you cook it they will come" and you know those ramens are pretty good, especily if you Doctor them up a liitle bit... and speaking of your dream team, it would probably have a better chance in a more Tribal or Communal Society where time is not so compressed...
When I waqs a kid, public toilets scared me...especially th ones that went"WHOOSH" real loud, like a Submarine had just sprung a leak, with respects of course to your Dad...

11:15 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I'd be willing to bet that ramen noodles have saved millions of starving college students, and I'm not a betting girl.

What an interesting story. It makes me think that there are probably interesting stories behind just about everything, if only we took them time to find them.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous David said...

who knew - ramen noodles are the secret to longevity! could be worth a try. btw, is his copany a $3 million or $3 billion enterprise?

2:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- Welcome back! I actually wrote today's post with you in mind because I know how much you like to cook. I really wish we could cook together sometime.

Kristin -- I do believe most college students think of ramen as the mainstay of their diet for 4 years.

David -- My trusty editor. Yes, it was supposed to be Billion.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I have such limited knowledge of food facts! I've never even heard of Ramen Noodles!

8:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MOI -- I'm sure you have seen Cup-o-Noodles or some other brand. They are just dehydrated noodles to which you add hot water and wait 5 minutes. They are probably not terribly nutritious, but their ease makes them attractive!

9:59 PM  

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