We are a World of Noodle Eaters

Artwork by Sara Kolp.

Artwork by Sara Kolp.

By Lola Milholland

It's an understatement to say that I'm excited about the upcoming screening of Tampopo, presented by Mississippi Records at Hollywood Theatre on January 26. We're going to be serving cup-o-Umi noodles with Hapa PDX broth for the whole lot of you. Get your tickets now, okay?

This movie was made the year I was born. My parents showed it to me at an age when someone else's parents might have frowned. The sexy parts burned into my retina, but so too did the journey towards ramen perfection, which more than anything else speaks to the importance of community. This isn't a lonely journey—the most unlikely people have expertise to bring to bear. Tampopo's quest is about the self-discovery that comes from helping others and being helped by others. That's been absolutely true of this latest chapter in my life. 

Throughout his career, the director, Juzo Itami, used comedy to call out injustice, dysfunction, and perfidy. I love him for that (and I love those movies!). But this movie is about something else—irreverence mixed up with reverence, sensuality and sexuality, devotion, self-confidence, hedonism, propriety, even madness. And then, of course, noodles. Noodles as fun, slurpable things that also signify our cultures, our ideas of right and wrong, our ideals.

It’s amazing how much ramen has come into the spotlight in the U.S. recently. The thing I find most unique about eating ramen is not just that the broth is an umami shot to the veins nor the slippery fun of noodles nor how the steam encloses your face, but how all of it forces your attention so that the world around you sometimes recedes and you find yourself in an intimate conversation with yourself. It’s introspective pleasure, often awkwardly experienced in public. Like watching a movie.

What does it mean that we are embracing ramen? Is it a signal of a greater multicultural openness? Is it sheer hedonism? Whatever it is, it’s not just about the food—it’s about who we are right now. We are a world of noodle eaters and sometimes eating noodles is how we negotiate what we know of other cultures and what we hold onto of ourselves.

I know I’m a windbag. But let this be my call to see this movie and slurp some Umi noodles with me. It will be silly!

Huge thanks to Eric Isaacson of Mississippi Records for including us.