Spaghetti Eastern

The banning of Maggi noodles by various State governments across India for excessive levels of lead and MSG (monosodium glutamate) has brought the spotlight on this popular dish.

This week, we answer a question on its history and tackle an even more important query on the proper way to eat noodles.

Can you give a brief history of noodles?

The origin of noodles is pretty fascinating and nearly dates back to as early as third century China, a period which that celebrated Sino historian Roger Dodemaide aptly describes as ‘very, very long back’.

Noodles, hugely popular among the people of Han dynasty, was actually an accidental discovery. A group of people were distractedly working on wheat dough, when one of them had a sudden brainwave, ‘hey! We have way too much time on our hands as television is still several centuries away from being invented. Why don’t we make long, thin strips of this dough? It’s pointless, to be sure. Also, the dough won’t taste any better. But it would be a fun way to waste our time, won’t it?’ And they probably high-fived amongst themselves and thus was born noodles.

Since silliness has a way of perpetuating itself, from then on, people have been undertaking the difficult task of making long strips out of otherwise perfectly acceptable wheat dough and eating it in the most clumsy manner possible. Noodles is verily a testimony to human ingenuity and to the fact that nothing is too stupid for a bunch of extremely bored people to attempt. This also explains boardroom happenings in some companies and many engineering college hostels.

From China, noodles went to Japan and then to the Persian Gulf and then to Europe, where the Italians, another set of enterprising people, were the first to embrace it. Alas, they seemed to have embraced it literally as out emerged the noodles strap dress.

Which is the best way to eat noodles?

Whether to use the spoon or fork or chopsticks to eat noodles with is a quandary faced by many. But if you are given a choice, this column advises you to settle for industrial wrench, which alone can hold the slippery, slithery strips with any amount of certainty.

Spoon: Steady your hand, hold the spoon firmly, reach for the bottom of the noodle pile in the plate, work around it till you manage to fill the spoon with an agreeable quantity of noodles, now slowly lift the spoon and ease it gently in your open mouth and — voila — you will be biting into steely metal of the spoon as all noodles would have fallen back into the plate during its short journey from the plate. The spoon is no way designed to hold noodles. It is a bit like attempting swimming wearing roller skates. The best way to eat noodles with a spoon is to carefully pick one strand at a time from the plate. It is time-consuming. Also, you may end up with a tennis elbow. But heck, the job would have been done.

Fork: Now, fork is altogether different implement. Its pointed edges give it a rake-like-feel, and make it easy to attack the strips of noodle. Grip the fork in a relaxed manner, poke it gently into the mound of noodles till you reach the bottom of the plate, twirl the fork, the resultant screeching sound will make the entire dining hall look in your direction, ignore it, make a little bundle of the noodles, raise it and put it in your mouth and eat it. But you can’t. For the beauty of noodles is no matter with which you eat it, a quite a lot it will ungainly hang out of your mouth, giving you an impromptu Master Shifu-style moustache before you can suck it in.

Chopsticks: Pick the chopsticks in your hands. Get told by your companion that you can’t use both the hands and the two chopsticks have to be held in the same hand. Same hand? You ask incredulously. Yes. You get told. Japanese and Chinese eat even rice with chopsticks, you are given additional information. Is Japanese rice magnetic, you wonder. Anyway, you tremulously clasp the chopsticks in one hand, you gingerly reach for the noodles, you fish for the noodles, coil the strips around the sticks, you suddenly feel reassured as this seems it will after all work, you carefully lift the clot of noodles strips, but hey wait, something seems to have gone wrong, your hand is free and the chopsticks are in the noodle bowl. You just dropped them, idiot. The lead content was too heavy, you tell yourself.