July 13, 2013by Dami Ajayi

On Noodles

Satisfying hunger premiers our Millennium Development Goals for a good reason. We will all agree on how much of a maximum disaster it is to go to sleep on a growling belly. Need I reiterate the importance of food any further?

I grew up in the height of Nigeria’s military dictatorship, a time fraught with hardship, hunger and the devastation of the Middleclass. My family was quite fortunate though. Dad worked with a bank but I remember he owned two pair of scuffed shoes mended weekly by itinerant cobblers. Childhood entertainment comprised of our 14-inch National Colour Television and a Funai Video Cassette Player. Our regular movies were recordings of past wedding and funeral ceremonies. We crammed into a gold-coloured Volkswagen Beetle to go to school. I halved meat with my siblings during family meals and Garri was for lunch, by default. That was what it meant to be Middleclass during the dictatorship. I probably just finished drinking garri with groundnuts when I heard of Abacha’s sudden passing, so you must forgive the blatant disregard I paid our president when he announced that cassava bread tickled his fancy. If it were Abacha who said this, there would have been a loud outcry of injustice. Governance in Nigeria has become petty as to make policies affecting family meals. But my point is that the quality of family meals remains an index for appraising a country’s growth. The Nigerian middleclass is robust more than ever and Noodles is fast replacing garri as the fastest meal ever.

Of course, there is sliced bread and the myriad of things one can do with it, but noodles might be a culinary predictor that civilization is heading eastward. I remember the first Noodles marketed in Nigeria. It was called Two Minutes Instant Noodles and there was a TV advert which appealed to school age children. My siblings and I bugged my mother till she brought a carton home. We demanded it for breakfast the next day. After the feverish excitement that my mother likened to eating rice in her childhood, we settled for a bowl of sizzling jaundiced edible worms. My first observation was that the Noodles we were eating did not have all the greens and reds and sliced eggs that the advert and wrapper had showcased. We took a mouthful and my siblings and I exchanged looks. My mother had to give the full carton away.

Nowadays, the Noodles manufacturing industry is very competitive, but the balance is still skewed in the direction of it pioneer, despite the Killer Noodle scare a few years ago. Noodles has gradually warmed itself into the stomach of all age groups; it is fast becoming a staple Family meal. It even comes in different sizes and recipes. The agile Lagos handyman devours a Hungry-man size noodle and is rid of his gnawing hunger. The infant can be weaned on soggy Noodles delivered by a plastic fork. Soon enough, noodles will be served at family functions along with Garri and Ofe Onugbu, Pounded yam and Efo riro, Amala and Ewedu.

My point is that we are witnessing the adoption of what used to be a snack into a legitimate occupant of the family menu and, interestingly, we are part of it. It is an ongoing cultural crusade carefully being perpetuated through the media, aided by the peculiarity of our time. The joy of food has morphed into something beyond diligent culinary perseverance. Extra kitchen time is better accounted for hopping the Urban Mass Transit bus or watching daytime television. Consequently, there is a preference for simple and fast meals. Add to this a vigorous media campaign on the part of Noodles makers; toddlers extolling the virtues of a Noodles-cooking mother. The crowd response is wild fire. The makers of Noodles smile to the bank; we smile to the toilet.

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    xi / 6:42 am / Reply