Tuesday, September 3, 2013


One is reminded of the famous saying attributed to queen Marie Antoinette that "if people have no bread, let them eat cake"! This comes to mind when the recent claim by two Anthropology Professors in the US that instant noodle can solve global food problem in the year 2050 when the population is likely to reach 9 billion! It is sad to read such news reports because they are outlandish and foolish when weighed against facts. Almost half the population that live in more than 60 countries across the world enjoy a quality of life which cannot be considered satisfactory measured by any yardstick because of economic deprivation, low purchasing power and inaccessibility to food. This is why India wanted to have a free food distribution system covering almost two thirds of its population at a colossal annual outgo of more than Rs 130 billion! Consider asking the Government of India to supply instant noodles in stead of raw grains like Rice, wheat or coarse cereals! It is mind boggling to even imagine manufacturing such a huge quantity of noodles and its staggering cost! Here is a take on this news item which can make people laugh or cry after reading!  

As government officials and food experts ponder the ever more urgent question of how to feed a ballooning global population, an Amherst College anthropologist and her two colleagues explore an answer: instant noodles. The staple of American college students' diets for decades, instant noodles also serve "an important role in satiating hunger and in sustaining lives for many worldwide, including those hanging on under difficult circumstances," according to Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology at Amherst, and her co-authors of The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century. In their new book, Gewertz and her colleagues examine the history, manufacturing, marketing and consumption of the ubiquitous foodstuff and make the case that instant noodles will have an increasingly significant global role in the coming years.   "As a protean food designed for quotidian consumption, instant noodles have already shown a remarkable capacity to ease themselves into diverse lives," she said. "We expect that the calories provided by the tasty, convenient, cheap, shelf-stable, industrially prepared instant noodles will remain important" as food becomes scarcer in the future. In The Noodle Narratives, Gewertz and co-authors Frederick Errington, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., and Tatsuro Fujikura, professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies at Kyoto University and a member of Amherst's Class of 1991, describe the biophysiology of human taste, provide insight into how marketers penetrate new markets with industrial foods and analyze what it takes to feed billions of people. They also examine why what they call "one of the most remarkable industrial foods ever" appeals to young and old, rich and impoverished alike. "Instant noodles thus far have been virtually unstoppable—and, as such, their accomplishments are worthy of serious attention," they observe. "They are telling in what they facilitate and reveal about global capitalist provisioning: They make a lot happen and show a lot happening."

The suggestion that instant noodle can be made more healthy by baking rather than frying and fortification with iron to make it more nutritious is a sound one. Automated noodle making technology is a high tech venture requiring heavy investments on machinery. And to make them instant is still more costlier! Generally noodles are made from refined wheat flour and nutritional pundits frown on such products because of their relatively low nutrient density compared to whole wheat flour. Instant noodles, no doubt is a remarkable product with very high degree of convenience but no where in the world it is considered a substitute to staple diets consumed by most people. Chinese, Japanese and many Asian countries do consume noodles regularly as it is a staple food for them but the product gained universal acceptance from younger generation population in the West also during the last 5 decades. Still by any stretch of imagination it cannot replace the traditional bread in the West or the wheat Roti in India and neighboring countries.  


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