Today, as I write this, December 11, 2016, is National Noodle Ring Day. What, again? you say. So soon? But that’s how the holy days are, aren’t they, always upon us, or so it seems. I’m reminded of a wonderfully snarky thing I once saw in the New Yorker, back when the New Yorker —and maybe the whole world—used to be a lot funnier. It was one of those little squibs they then had a habit of republishing, a bit of hapless advertising copy from, I think, Goodman Noodles, that went, Vary your Lenten menu with a noodle dish a day. As if Lent, that time of solemn suffering could, or ought to be, enhanced by novelty. As if noodles, in all their splendid self-ness could be anything but themselves.

And yet, in some sense, isn’t it true that every noodle dish has a special novelty all its own? I’m not thinking solely of the vast and amazing variety of shapes that human beings have managed to conceive of: noodles flat and curved, skinny and fat, German, Asian and Italian, but also the anticipation that comes from facing a dish of this always comforting food.

Man slurping noodles
Noodle Soup by mr_thomas. CC license.

Every dish of ramen, whether out of a cardboard cup or pampered in a restaurant is its own source of gustatory amazement for somebody.  And noodles go with everything. All right, maybe not beets. So maybe the Goodman Company was not far off the mark. And as for eliminating the suffering of restriction, well isn’t that what all advertising is all about. I mean, as they say, in a good way? Besides, who really suffers for Lent these days? (Look out, we’re hanging the decorations now, but it’s on the way).

I write this, having just read Elissa Altman’s delightful memoir Treyf. This is not really a review, but I do recommend the book (I’m just not going to give you a synopsis of its contents). In fact, I’ve been so taken by this book that, just for the moment at least, i am lost in a conviction that all memoir should have food as its principal subject. That isn’t Altman’s only subject, but she makes this memoir about alienation and assimilation, loss and dislocation, sexual identity and family politics and love in all its aspects (oops, that is a little bit of a synopsis) vibrant and compelling—much in the way having a good cook in the house makes everybody a little happier. One of the reviewers quoted on the back of the copy I’m reading compares Altman to Philip Roth and I don’t want to quibble about that too much. I know how hard it is to find really good comparisons when you’re trying to write reviews, but there’s something different in this book and it stands well by itself.

And don’t forget to have some noodles. Btw, if you’d like to know more about National Noodle Ring Day, you will find information and some really neat recipes at the National Day Calendar site. You can look it up.


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