Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Ode to instant noodles

Three-thirty in the morning I found myself in front of the stove. If you ever find me cooking at a time like this, it means that I'm pretty desperate. Only a hopeless case of hay fever can make me do this. It's something I've resorted to since I was a teenager.

I find comfort in this ritual. The house is dark and quiet, and ghosts could be lurking in the shadows. Everyone else is dead to my presence. I may as well be the ghost. But every inch of my sinuses is clogged and I'm totally miserable; I just need to get my fix. Antihistamines are a weak alternative to my stovetop solution: hot instant soup, and lots of it.

You can't make me eat additive-, preservative-, msg-laden instant noodles on an ordinary day. But this morning, I'd never opened a pack of instant soup with so much eagerness. I pore over every detail of the empty pack as if it were the front page of the newspaper while I wait for the water to boil. URC-Nissin, it says. May they live forever.

The water boils and I pour in the noodles. Add a packet of oil and dried flavorings. Then I count to 180, too impatient to look at the clock.

Finally I pour the steaming broth into a large bowl. There's so much anticipation as I breathe in the vapors, as though they were a mentholated mist from a humidifier. At that moment you can put me on that billboard for Lucky Me Instant Noodles. There's nothing else in this world except me and my soup. Talk about consumer insight.

The soup is warm and savory, and the noodles equally so - except that they're slippery-wet. Quite a pleasant feel on the mouth. Warm, wet, and slippery. Almost as pleasurable as kissing.

All too soon the pleasure is over; the bowl is empty. I sit back in the armchair and draw in a breath. I can taste beef mami all over my sinuses. The vapors cling to my face - I can even smell them. But again, I don't care. I just breathe in and savor the relief.

That, my friend, is comfort food.

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