Ramen and Romance During the Holidays

I am a foodie through and through, reading cookbooks for fun and planning out huge dinner parties I’ll never hold. I dearly love food-centric romances too and you find those popping up all the time during the holidays. Holiday celebrations mean food to so many people. Oddly enough, though, when I think about food and romance around the holidays I rarely think about multi-course, over-the-top dining affairs, and especially not the kind with butlers and servants and members of the aristocracy. I’m sure my blog sisters will all be deeply disappointed to know this, given that most of them write regency romance.

Ramen with White Bone soup - IshikaiAny time I think about food and romance, especially during U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, my first thought isn’t elaborate meals. No, instead I think back to the early days of my marriage to MrMr. We jokingly refer to those days as “The Ramen Noodle Era.” There was a time when we were too poor to afford much more than ramen noodles and boxed macaroni and cheese. So very little of what we ate was “real” food that at one holiday season we both started suffering from the first signs of scurvy. Gods. Scurvy. Can you imagine? From that day forward we put vitamin C tablets on our must buy list of purchases. And yet despite those early days, we were still ridiculously happy and in love. Thankfully, we still are. More than we were then, really.

I have to confess that when it comes right down to it, my vision of romance and food has always consisted of common, simple dishes even during times when grand roasts and whole birds are the norm. I imagine small meals like the thin noodles in simple broth with egg mixed in or the macaroni and cheese with fresh peas that were a staple of my early married years. Ramen noodle packages at the time ran 10 for 1$ or 12 when they were on sale and boxed macaroni meals were 19 cents each. We felt so decadent when we splurged on the peas for the macaroni that we giggled like teens on their first date the entire time we ate it. None of the food we ever consumed was fancy by today’s standards.

When I read food-centric romances like Louisa Edwards’s Recipe for Love series (charming!) or novels like Delicious by Sherry Thomas (loved it!) I always enjoy the lush descriptions and the recipes, or at least the ideas they give me for my own creations. They’re richly detailed stories every one and each one gives me that precious happily ever after. But the stories I really live for are the ones where meals are more simple affairs that reflect the realities of the lives of the characters. I love the intimacy of shared meals around a kitchen table, like the chili date scene between Molly and Ben in Victoria Dahl’s Talk Me Down. Or the homey family gatherings like the ones often described in Maya Bank’s KGI series.

Truth be told, fancy for MrMr and I has always been more settings and situations than actual ingredients anyway. Originally fancy meant putting out the good dishes stolen from the university cafeterias and using silverware instead of plastic take-out utensils. Once we left university and took real jobs, holiday fancy meant sitting at a real table wearing Santa hats instead of sitting parked on the couch because our first apartment was so small there was no table. Today’s definition isn’t really much different when it comes right down to it. We might open a bottle of wine these days instead of getting water straight from the tap and we might add some festive candles. But we still have carpet picnics of simple bread and cheese and sausages, especially around Christmas and New Years. We still get a little thrill from pulling out the crystal and china and serving meatloaf on it.

And yes, we still eat ramen noodles with egg. But when we’re feeling really fancy, we throw in a handful of julienned bok choy and use the carved chopsticks instead of the disposable ones.

•••

Question: What’s your most romantic food memory? One lucky commenter (US & Canada only please) will win a copy of 30 Minute Meals: A Common Sense Guide. I promise it has a recipes for all kinds of noodle dishes with quite a bit more sophistication than my beloved ramen. But I’ll throw in a package of our favorite ramen just for old time’s sake.

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11 thoughts on “Ramen and Romance During the Holidays

  1. I think we all went through this at one time or another. It’s been so long I almost forgot! LOL. Our go to cheap food was my husband’s tuna casserole. Potato chips, cream soup, tuna and noodles. The boys loved it and it stretched to feed us lunch the next day. To this day, the boys want him to make it for them because I can’t make it the same. — Amy

    • You know it’s funny but I was just thinking about that same casserole the other day. We used to fancy up our boxed macaroni with a can of tuna too sometimes but that was usually because someone donated a can. 🙂 I love these stories. I hope most people share what theirs were.

  2. Jennelle, I love this post (and my eyes are still watering, so you can even say I teared up ;)). Way to remember what the holidays are truly about–spending time with your family.
    P.S. You can make some awesome cold noodle casseroles with Ramen, as I found out this weekend at the Heart of Carolina holiday party.

    • Awh. Thanks! Yep, spending time with your family is definitely what it’s all about, whether that’s family by birth or family by choice.

      And one of my fav cold salads is one you make with fresh broccoli bits and bacon using one of the specialty ramen flavors (though it works with plain chicken flavor too). 🙂

  3. It seems like I was cooking before all the boxed stuff go so popular. Once my husband wanted to buy one of them and we figured out it was cheaper for me to make it from scratch. He got paid twice a month, so we had to work out menus for two weeks at a time.

    • Man I wish that would have worked for us. That’s what we do now, but at the time we were living off student loans as our only source of income. If we wanted groceries it was usually purchased with what we could gather up for the week from finding returnable soda cans from the garbage cans in the classrooms and dormitories. There was just no way we could purchase the ingredients in bulk at one time.

  4. Jennelle, this is a fabulous post. Simplicity far outweighs or reigns extravagance, in my opinion. As for romance, it’s clear why picnics are always so popular. Wine and cheese tastings. Not to mention, oysters and chocolate covered strawberries. All simple, easy and contain few ingredients. Romance is about being with the one you love. It doesn’t matter where or the richness of your surroundings, right? Though those do tend to add more passion sometimes. 😉

    Favorite romantic food memory? Having just given birth. Because I’d had a c-section, all I’d had to eat was a liquid diet. Blech! I’ll never forget my rogue bringing me a chocolate milkshake! Simplicity reigns supreme over the heartstrings, me hearties!

    • Thanks, Katherine. I completely agree. If the richness of our surroundings mattered, we’d have been considered virtually homeless and severely disadvantaged for the first half of our marriage. Thank goodness we were so rich on love. As for your chocolate shake? Hell I suspect if your Rogue had brought you a glass of water that would have been just as tasty and appreciated.

  5. What a lovely sweet post Jennelle! 🙂 Who knew ramen could be romantic? Congrats to you and MrMr going strong all these years later 🙂

    Unfortunately, I don’t really have any romantic food memories to share. But in romances, I always love when the hero cooks and prepares a meal for the heroine. Cooking can be very sensual, and it really says something when you go to the effort and trouble to cook for someone. I remember Rachael Ray saying on her show that anyone can make a reservation but making a meal really shows you care!

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