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The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Lifeby Andy Raskin
Synopses & Reviews
For three days in January 2007, the most-emailed article in The New York Times was “Appreciations: Mr. Noodle,” an editorial noting the passing, at age 96, of billionaire Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. The very existence of the noodle inventor came as a shock to many, but not to Andy Raskin, who had spent nearly three years trying to meet Ando. Why?
To fix the problems that plagued his love life.
The Ramen King and I is Raskin’s memoir about how despair—and a series of bizarre adventures at Japanese restaurants—led him to confront the truth of his romantic past, and how Ando became his unlikely spiritual guide. Through letters ostensibly penned to the culinary sage, Raskin reveals a relationship history plagued by infidelity, jealousy, and betrayal. After devouring Ando’s essays (with titles such as “Peace Follows from a Full Stomach” and “Mankind is Noodlekind”), he sets out to meet the food pioneer—and to discover the secret to a committed relationship.
Confronting his romantic past, Andy Raskin uncovers a pattern of infidelity and betrayal. Despair—and a bizarre series of adventures involving Japanese food—lead him to adopt Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles, as an unlikely spiritual guide. Spurred on by a stubborn sushi chef, a TV game show, and a sculpture in the Kmart headquarters parking lot, Raskin sets out to meet Ando—and to find the key to a successful committed relationship. A funny, emotionally charged memoir of hunger in its many forms, The Ramen King and I is about how we become slaves to our desires, and how to break free.
"This funny and idiosyncratic Japanese-fast-food memoir and quasi-spiritual autobiography from NPR commentator Raskin contains at its core, despite its oddball title, a deeply human story. The author grew up on Long Island and attended Wharton business school after college, which led to an internship in Japan and a life-long connection with the country. Over the years, Raskin also got involved with a number of women, without maintaining fidelity or forming a permanent attachment. Relocation to the West Coast and numerous Internet hookups eventually led to therapy and a fellowship, where he began to accept his sexual compulsivity and met the mentor who recommended finding some form of Higher Power. Raskin's unorthodox choice of Momofuku Ando, the nonagenarian inventor of instant ramen and Nissin Food Products chairman, led to several futile attempts to contact and meet him. The result is a painfully humane and hilariously candid journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. At first, the book's intentions aren't explicit, the structure is near confusing, and the narrator's crisis feels shallow. But the various strands eventually weave together into a satisfying whole that becomes a quirky, unique memoir. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Musing on this book — over a bowl of ramen — it occurs to me that many men prefer to have more than one wife per life. The question — after "Should I add bok choy or fried garlic as garnish?" — is, "How should societies accommodate that preference?" In parts of India and Mexico and the Middle East, in wild and woolly parts of Utah and New Mexico, polygamy is smiled upon. Even in parts of Western... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Europe, a man's juggling of multiple partners is not held against him. Maybe, when you think about it, America is the only place where strict monogamy is taken seriously, but the divorce rate here is pretty awe-inspiring. What is it with us? Our Puritan heritage? Another way of placing ourselves on the moral high ground? (We know how well that turns out ... ) Many men — not all! — take a wife, then split, feel just terrible about it, take another wife, split, feel bad about it, and so on. But a sizable number prefer not to settle down at all. They work at being frivolous; they're locked into the glamour of the hunt. Mention commitment, and their flesh begins to crawl. So it is with Andy Raskin in this wacky, oddly endearing memoir. Until his late 30s, he obsessed over beautiful girls, but he can't have one without having another one to play off the first. He's not happy unless he's cheating. (But he's not happy when he is cheating, either.) He puts personal ads on Craigslist. He has so many women, he can't remember their names. Theoretically, he wants to be a grown-up; in real life, he can't stand the idea. He wants to get as far away from his life as a nice Jewish boy raised on Long Island can. Besides his fixation on women, he falls in love with Japanese culture, which happens to be on the other side of the world. He loves samurai movies, Japanese comics, the Japanese language (which he learns), Japanese girls and Japanese cuisine (particularly fermented squid). He jumps from job to job, girl to girl, sushi bar to noodle joint. Many guys might think of this as an ideal life, but Raskin feels bad about it. Indeed, he feels so desperate about cheating on his girlfriends that he ends up in something like a 12-step program to modify his dating habits. And in a move that parallels what happens in the movie "You Kill Me," in which Ben Kingsley chooses the Golden Gate Bridge as his Higher Power, Raskin chooses Momofuku Ando, the Japanese magnate who invented instant ramen. No matter that he and Raskin have never met or that Ando was in his 90s living in Osaka. Raskin's sponsor suggests that he write a series of journal entries to the old gentleman, recording each and every time the specter of sexual misbehavior comes upon him. In addition, the sponsor extracts a promise from the author that he will remain chaste for 60 days. Ando is already something of a self-defined sage, having written such books as "Conception of a Fantastic Idea," "How to Escape From Difficulty" and "How to Live Happily to One Hundred" — a goal he missed by just four years. Raskin, a freelance journalist who happily — except for sex — gives way to his obsessions, sets out to discover all he can about Ando, as well as himself. He travels to Osaka more than once, trying to meet Ando. He visits the Instant Ramen Invention Museum, which is just about what it sounds like. He reads two versions of Ando's autobiography. He takes note when Ando writes that he himself has done his share of "shameful" things. It turns out that Momofuku Ando, far from being a model of adulthood and fidelity, has failed repeatedly in business, been jailed twice, had three wives with a child from each marriage. Not only that, he was stingy with his child support and disowned his elder son. But nobody's perfect, as Raskin realizes even before he attends Ando's funeral in an Osaka baseball stadium. Meanwhile, through his journal entries to Ando, Raskin comes to recognize his own relentlessly scolding inner voice: "YOU SHOULD JUST CUT PROCESSED SUGARS FROM YOUR DIET THE WAY YOUR MOTHER HAS. IT'S THAT SIMPLE." Or, "YOU SHOULD JUST HUNKER DOWN AND WRITE SOME STORIES ABOUT BIG COMPANIES. YOU SHOULD NEVER QUIT A JOB BEFORE YOU HAVE A NEW JOB." Gradually, he realizes that this pitiless voice has kept him from committing to a relationship. He also recognizes the voice as having come from the mouths of his parents, but really it has descended through generations. The author eventually gets eighty-sixed from his favorite sushi bar and tells us a lot about noodles (although I would have liked to know, once and for all, the philosophical differences among soba, udon, ramen and instant ramen). He revels in all things Japanese and gets his dating life in some kind of order. But if he'd grown up in pre-revolutionary China, parts of Mexico, India, etc., he might have saved himself all kinds of grief. Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com., Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
Struggling to overcome chronic relationship problems, an American journeys to Japan seeking guidance from Momofuku Ando—the father of instant ramen noodles—in this unique memoir about breaking free from slavish desire.
"Mankind is Noodlekind"
For three days in January 2007,the most e-mailed article in The New York Times was "appreciations: Mr. noodle," an editorial noting the passing, at age ninety-six, of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. Ando's existence came as a shock to many, but not to Andy Raskin, who had spent three years trying to meet the noodle pioneer.
The Ramen King and I is Raskin's funny and, at times, painfully honest memoir about confronting the truth of his dating life-with Ando as his spiritual guide. Can instant ramen lead one to a committed relationship? And is sushi the secret to self-acceptance?
A true tale of hunger in its many forms, The Ramen King and I is about becoming slaves to our desires and learning to break free.
For three days in January 2007, the most-emailed article in The New York Times was Appreciations: Mr. Noodle, an editorial noting the passing, at age 96, of billionaire Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen. The very existence of the noodle inventor came as a shock to many, but not to Andy Raskin, who had spent nearly three years trying to meet Ando. Why?
To fix the problems that plagued his love life.
The Ramen King and I is Raskin's memoir about how despair-and a series of bizarre adventures at Japanese restaurants-led him to confront the truth of his romantic past, and how Ando became his unlikely spiritual guide. Through letters ostensibly penned to the culinary sage, Raskin reveals a relationship history plagued by infidelity, jealousy, and betrayal. After devouring Ando's essays (with titles such as Peace Follows from a Full Stomach and Mankind is Noodlekind), he sets out to meet the food pioneer-and to discover the secret to a committed relationship.
About the Author
"To say The Ramen King and I is a wonderful, beautifully crafted memoir about sex and fidelity and instant noodles only hints at the humor and humanity of this book. I couldn't stop laughing, even though it was also sad, in that being-human-is-sometimes-a-sad-proposition kind of way. Andy Raskin has an insider's perspective on male desire and Japanese culture, and a keen eye for the delicate, heartbreaking absurdities of both."
-Ruth Ozeki, author of My Year of Meats
"I ate this book in one sitting. Okay, three sittings. What I mean is I loved it. It won me over from the start, and when it wasn't making me hungry it made me think. Apparently I, too, battle against the Fundamental Misunderstanding of Humanity."
"More raw than sushi... Raskin's journey is bizarre, enlightening, and delicious." -Pamela Drucker, author of Lust In Translation
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