Blog of an aspiring foodie

Boxed pasta and sauce – American Ramen?

Posted by beer_chris on 26-December-2008

Driving home from my family’s place this Christmas evening Jaime reminded me it was dinner time. I really had not even noticed what time it was, and certainly was not hungry – having grazed on ham and Christmas goodies all day long. However, she was ready for a meal and I assured her I could come up with something once we got home.

A quick look in the pantry on our arrival revealed something I generally keep around – a box of pasta and sauce. In this case, a linguine with parmesan sauce. These boxes are pretty prolific, coming in all sorts of flavors and found on the pasta/rice aisle in the supermarket. You bring some milk to boil, add a little butter and the package of seasoning/sauce in the box, along with the pasta of course. A little stirring and resting and voila – pasta with a cream sauce.

As I casually cooked this up in my skillet I began to think about two things. First, I thought about how dated this dish really is. It’s all about convenience – the biggest sacrifice being the cheese. The very idea that cheese flavor can be powdered and hermetically sealed into a packet smacks of 1950’s style industrial food engineering. This dish has nothing to do with cooking and flavor and everything to do with economy and convenience. A fundamental food sin – hauck, pa-tooey, begone, etc, etc. – right?

However, I also thought about a recent trip to one of the big asian supermarkets on the west side. This particular place had an entire aisle dedicated to ramen from different places in the world. If anything, ramen is more prolific than these boxed pastas with the sauce packets. They come in more flavors and are imminently more portable – some even coming in complete heat and serve style packaging. Ramen is one of those ultimate comfort foods for many cultures around the world – and that’s the real reason why I keep one of these boxes of pasta and sauce in my pantry. It’s a comfort food for me. That’s not to get all jingoistic about it and say I don’t eat ramen or something like that but this certainly got me thinking – and I do think the boxed pasta (or rice) with envelope sauce is a uniquely american type of overprocessed comfort food that we all just accept and eat because it’s just so darn warm and nice and tasty and easy and cheesy and yummy. 

That and it’s EASY to make on a night like tonight when only one of us it hungry.

Couple of other thoughts:

  • Safeway (Randalls) has a staff blogger. That’s crazy to me. Crazier is that people read it, some pretty regularly (at least according to my cursory glance at the pages) The intrewbes truly is an amazing thing.
  • I suppose the real origin of the pasta w/envelope sauce in a box is from Kraft with macaroni and cheese. I think Kraft originated the process to created the powdered cheese to begin with – a little research kind of confirms that, and certainy mac and cheese is one of the ultimate US comfort foods.
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One Response to “Boxed pasta and sauce – American Ramen?”

  1. Ricky said

    By the way, we are coming up to the second anniversary of the death of Momofoku Ando. Who is Ando-san? The inventor of instant ramen.

    BTW, instant ramen is a world of a difference from fresh ramen. I’ve had the amazing stuff in LA – toothsome noodles, broth prepared with care. It’s pretty darn close to the description in Tampopo.

    I don’t know who invented the instant creamy pasta stuff, though.

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