My Ramen Resolutions

Since it’s that time of year, here are my five Ramen Resolutions for 2019.
I’m a nerd? No, you’re a nerd.

Eat fewer carbs. Eat more ramen.

The problem with low-carb diets is that they, um, work. Carbs for me are more addiction than craving, and I’ve found that eating carbs in moderation has always been a slippery slope toward eating them continuously.

So in 2018, I cut carbs out completely from January to March, meaning no ramen, even though ramen is rarely the problem. Ramen is still an occasion for me. It is a treat, not a staple.

My real problem is the Noodles of Convenience that I crave for a desk-hunched, time-crunched lunch or a slouch-on-the-couch dinner: pad thai and chow fun and lo mein and even the occasional japchae. (Links to some of my favorites.) I’m also a sucker for toothy, twirlable spaghetti pomodoro under a snowfall of shaved parmesan dear lord now I’m hungry.

This year, I treated carbs like a highly addictive drug and myself like an addict: I went cold-turkey. (Cold turkey was, in fact, my lunch most days.) Lo, the pounds came off. Twenty of them. It seems that ~10% of me was just surplus noodles and Sapporo.

After Q1 I was not so disciplined, but most of the weight stayed off, and I continue to feel a very pleasant residual will power and mindfulness toward what I eat. I resolved to make this a tradition, but damn if I didn’t miss my ramen. Ramen is more than a food for me– it’s a hobby, maybe an avocation, possibly my raison d’etre.

In 2019, I am upping the ante on Carb-Free Q1. As before, I pledge carbohydrate celibacy until April 1. But new this year, I will still eat ramen from time to time. I think this will be a harder goal than cutting it out completely, but also more rewarding and more sustainable. Is it possible to keep ramen sacred? To slurp with purpose, skip the Sapporo, and keep the Noodles of Convenience at bay? I think so.

Fight my favorites.

I’m too predictable. I know exactly what I like. Show me a good spicy miso or a tan tan men, and I’m going to skip right past the shoyu, the shio, and even the everyone-talks-about-it tonkotsu. If I spot a sizzling gyoza or a sexy karaage coming out of the kitchen, I may not even look at the menu.

In 2019, I resolve to order less predictably.  By trying new things and re-trying some things that did not make my shortlist, I hope to broaden my interests and find some new favorites.

Write it down.

In my job at Amazon, I spend a lot of time writing. We have a writing culture, structuring all our meetings around whitepapers rather than PowerPoint, and I’m a total believer. Writing is a lens that focuses and clarifies thoughts. Once something is in writing, it’s usually easier to see what’s missing or what is left to be done. A good writer can take a jumbled bag of ideas and assemble them into a coherent story.

In 2019, I resolve to write about ramen so that I can focus and clarify this important part of my life. I hope that it grows from something I eat into something I do, something I can build up over time and share with friends.

Make a phenomenal veggie ramen.

I used to think veggie ramen was an oxymoron, and certainly not a worthwhile pursuit. If you think this too, you are probably picturing a thin veggie stock covered in a half-cooked garden of leafy greens and tomato wedges. Whatever it is, it’s not ramen. When I was planning the menu for the ramen shop I never opened (another story for another time), I left veggie ramen off the menu because… seriously why would you bother? It wouldn’t be delicious, and everyone including vegetarians knows to avoid it.

Then I married a vegetarian, and I developed a new empathy for the vegetarian ramen-lover, or worse, the vegetarian who loves a ramen-lover. I now appreciate that most places in New York offer veggie ramen, but I wish very badly that it weren’t the out-of-place placeholder that it usually is. Veggie ramen should not be a favor that one does when their loved ones want a good shoyu.

One time, I found it. A standout, craveable veggie ramen! It was the vegetarian hazelnut tan tan men at Afuri Portland, and it had all the thickness, depth of flavor, and sex appeal that I could ask for. It’s something a carnivore could crave.

So it’s possible, just improbable. This is too important to leave to the mercy of the free market. In 2019, I resolve to harness the power to make my own phenomenal veggie ramen. I will do my research around town, find just the right mix of kombu and shiitake for the stock, toppings that are substantial but not stupid, and perhaps make my own hazelnut tan tan men.

Connect with Ramenheads.

You are not alone. There are more of us out there. Our friends don’t understand us, our loved ones worry a little, but we get it… don’t we? In 2019, I resolve to find my fellow Ramenheads and become a part of the subculture. Want to join me? Subscribe to the blog or send me a note. I’m not sure where this is all going, but I promise to bring you along.

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