Monday, August 30, 2010

Reminiscing About Ramen

FYI: if you are really dedicated to this label reading journey we are embarking upon together AND you have a soft spot for ramen noodles, you could have a serious problem on your hands.

Personally, I was born and raised on the stuff. My dad is from Hawaii, and growing up, he ate saimin (that’s what we call ramen in our family) on a daily basis, and he passed that tradition on to our family. The lunches I most vividly remember as a child were saimin with sliced Vienna sausages mixed in the noodles and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I know, I know. In some crowds nowadays that would be akin to child abuse. But, honestly, I loved it, and have such good memories of sitting around the kitchen table with my brothers, all of us slurping up the long noodles while the broth sprayed all over the place and made us giggle.

Unfortunately, I’m a big girl now and I’ve got a bit of a conscience about additives in my food so poring over the label on a bag of ramen makes me sick to my stomach, nostalgic, and sad all at the same time. I wish I could serve up a piping hot bowl of noodles to my kids and feel good about it but I just can’t . I mean, the list of offenders begins with msg and (about 30-words-I-cannot-pronounce later) ends with Maltodextrin. Very, very scary.

Now, the truth is that I am a healthy, fairly stable adult, so one could say that the constant diet of ramen as a kid must not have been too detrimental to my health. On the surface, that would seem to be true. But in hindsight, I dealt with being overweight for most of my childhood and teenage years. I’m not saying that we need to put our kids on diets. Far from it. But I do think that if weight is in issue in your family, that you need to take a good hard look at how much fresh food your kids are getting, and how many “ramen-type” foods they are consuming.

I’m coming clean here: when I visit my parents, I still really love it when my dad sets down a steaming hot bowl of saimin in front of me and hands me one of his Chinese soup spoons to ladle up the noodles and broth. And at the moment I do have a box of spicy saimin in my pantry that my dad bought for me the last time I went to visit.

So despite all my qualms with crappy food, I still enjoy saimin. Not every day, not every week, not even every month. Truthfully, I haven’t even opened the box my dad gave me yet and I got it back in June. I guess I just like knowing it’s there, a little remnant of my childhood preserved in my cupboard. One day I’d like to find a healthy version, one that uses fresh noodles and broth and all kinds of delicious veggies. Maybe I could start a new kind of tradition with my kids, but one that still hearkens back to my and my dad’s childhood days.

What about you? Do you have a favorite food of childhood that you wish came in a healthier version for you to feed your children?


  1. Oh My Gosh!!! I remember eating saimin with you guys!!!! That was a summer staple in Kings Chapel :) And, crazy thing, I didn't know it wasn't called Saimin until I went to college. I said something about getting saimin at Meijer's my freshman year, and people looked at me like I was crazy. Oh, those are great memories!!! However, I have to admit... that is a staple in our house now... not eaten all the time, but always in the cabinet for a quick side or snack.

  2. Truthfully I never really ate much junk food as a child. I remember just eating what we wanted to eat and then that was it. We were not big snackers. And meals were normally homemade and not instant crap. Now occasionally I would have ramen noodles. In the cafeteria at school on Friday's a friend and I would split a cup of it for our lunch. So funny and sad how my eating habits have changed so dramatically.

  3. Julie, I remember those days so clearly and I love that you still called it saimin for years! I'll have to tell my dad that; he'd get a real kick out of it:)

  4. Mai, I'll take the box of spicy saimen. If you throw some char siu in there it is amazing. We love it. No need to hoard. :-)

  5. Matthew, I have a box too but I don't have char-sui. Now who is hoarding! ;)