I’ve been contemplating why I like ramen so much…
My husband’s theory is that people love certain foods because of nostalgia; when they eat a particular food, it brings back happy or fond memories. For example, he and my sis in law reminisce about Black Forest Cake, but not just any Black Forest cake, but Black Forest Cake purchased from Sam’s Club. “Whenever we had a birthday, that’s where our family got our cake, and it always stood out to me as the best. That is my cake standard.”
I don’t have that kind of history with ramen; I tried my first bowl of “authentic” Japanese ramen after I graduated from college, married, moved to a new city. Honestly, the first time I tried it, I wasn’t even that impressed.
Gradually, my tastes began to change. The meaty but creamy broth, the chewy noodles, the half boiled egg… ramen had become one of the foods I always crave.
Two thoughts come to mind.
Growing up, my mom often worked 16 hour days. But on Saturday’s, we’d often wake up to the smell of simmering beef broth, poured over fresh គុយទាវ (rice noodles), and topped with fried garlic, slivers of green onions, and crisp bean sprouts. With each scoop of soft noodles and savory broth, I tasted the sacrifice of ម៉ាក់‘ s (Mak’s) hard work, because she never said “I love you” but said “are you hungry?” There is something about breathing in the steam from a long simmered broth, whether it be from Khmer noodle soup, Japanese noodle soup, or chicken noodle soup, that conjures up feelings of long hours of care, tired feet standing in the kitchen, back arched over the stove. A bowl of comfort that nourishes our stomachs and souls.
More recently, while dining at our local ramen restaurant, my toddler slurped the slippery winding noodles into her mouth one at a time, then giggled when the broth splashed across her cheeks. I tied a napkin around her neck as a makeshift bib. Grasping the noodles with my chopsticks, I savored these precious moments together with my husband and daughter. Despite his crazy overnight hospital schedule and my busy days in clinic, it was a quiet moment to enjoy dinner out on a weeknight. My own soup, still warm, tasted even more welcoming and inviting.
~ ~ ~
A few weeks later, we invited our friends and church family out for dim sum.
When we arrived at the small but bustling restaurant, I was reminded of shouting and laughing with relatives around a lazy susan in Hong Kong, the clinking of mah jong tiles at nearby tables, and remembering Mom (my mother in law)’s smile, as she always served various dishes onto my plate before she ate hers.
But this time was different. As we passed the small bamboo steamers across the table, our friend shared with us how the U.S. government approved his request for asylum to remain in the United States. We embraced each other in warm hugs and smiled over steaming tea cups, drinking in God’s faithfulness. Especially in our current political climate where the government has been actively carrying out immigrant raids and deporting former refugees, we were elated that our friends could remain in the U.S. and not have to return home to a life of fear.
~ ~ ~
Thus, I have begun to realize we can love particular foods not necessarily because it carries old, happy memories…
but we can find joy from creating new ones,
at the table,
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one
who takes refuge in him.”
– Psalms 34:8 NIV
~ ~ ~
This is another post on food & family. If you enjoyed this, check out my previous posts: