Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz, 40 pp., RL 3

Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando 

by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

I have been on a ramen odyssey of late. Great Big Story, my video source for all things global, curious, delicious and intriguing, started it with this video: From Indonesia to Brazil, 8 Inventive Instant Noodle Recipes (which in turn was inspired by the video How Noodles Are Made Around the World). A trip to H Mart with my sons and $100 later, and we had four different flavors of ramen, chili crunch, fresh seaweed, fish cakes, American cheese slices (trust me on this one, learned it from the video and it totally works) and several other frozen, fresh and dried noodles for later, and I only wanted MORE. Especially when I decided to make NOODLES the theme of my first-ever Virtual Library Newsletter

While my ramen odyssey may never end, I have reached an inspirational pause in the story of Momofuku Ando, the man who INVENTED instant noodles! I know that noodles are centuries old, and I foolishly assumed that instant noodles were some kind of necessity, like beef jerky and hard tack, that was invented in China a few hundred years ago, morphing over time into the packets and styrofoam cups of salty, slurpy satisfaction we know them as today. Boy, was I wrong! And, while reading Andrea Wang and Kana Urbanowicz's superb picture book biography DID make me hungry, it was also food for thought that inspired me to learn more. Ando, who was born in Taiwan and made Japan his home, was deeply affected by the long lines of starving people waiting for food after World War II. As Wang says in her author's notes, "for years he dreamed about new food that would nourish people and ease their suffering." Ando made food his life's work and, after years of experimenting in a shed in his backyard and experiencing many failures and financial losses, he found success. I am someone who loves to eat almost as much as I love to cook, and I found the pages of Ando's experiments with creating dried noodles that cook instantly especially fascinating. And the, in 1958, Ando debuted Chikin Ramen, noodles and soup, ready to eat in minutes! 

Urbanowicz's illustrations are perfectly paired with the story of Ando's invention. I love the noodle-toned color palette she is working with as well as the occasional use of graphic novel style panels. The pleasure captured on Ando's face when he eats a delicious spoonful of soup is as palpable as the expression on his face when he finds success with his noodles. 

Wang's story of this one period in a very long, creative, inventive life (Ando lived to be ninety-six!) sent me searching for more information about him. Sign up for my newsletter to read about what I learned (links & videos, too).

Ramen Animation by Kana Urbaniwicz, part of her EATING LOOPS SERIES

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