The Ramen Diaries: Stir Fry

Ever since returning from Paris, where I ate several portions of lavish food daily, I've been doing that poor college student thing, you know, where you don't eat a three course meal three times a day... Real life is kind of a bummer.  Gone are the days of chèvre and saumon fume and sauvignon blanc. I've returned to an endless bowl of ramen noodles.  A college student's go-to ingredient for a cheap, delicious, and less than nutritional meal.  That and a can of Keystone and you can fit in on any campus in the country.  (This is the part where I don't complain about spending an entire paycheck on a new iPhone but rather accept my fate as a smartphone addicted twenty-something who has doomed herself to a rather limited food budget for questionable financial decisions...)

I've loved packaged ramen pretty much forever, but after a few two many bowls of dehydrated noodles in powder, I needed to find a way to spice up my meals.

At first I tried to literally just add spice, in the form of frozen Thai chili peppers that were left in my freezer by someone at some point.  Point being, I did not purchase them.  And whomever did probably intended to kill me.  Chopping the peppers and adding them to the noodles was a huge mistake: the seeds were unbearably spicy.  I had two friends distract me while I consumed what I deemed "The Death Plate," too stubborn and too broke to throw out a dinner.

The next night's ramen fiesta was a success, and thus, the inspiration for this post:  I stir-fried chopped garlic, whole Thai peppers, and a frozen bag of "Asian" vegetables in coconut oil, cooked the noodles in the provided broth, mixed everything together, and topped the plate with a fried egg. Bon appetite!

Olive Garden Lady: Why All the Hate?

Big in online food news this week was a rave review of a new Olive Garden restaurant which opened recently in Grand Forks, Washington.  The reviewer, Marilyn Hagerty, is an elderly reporter who writes various recurring columns for the Grand Forks Herald, including "The Eat Beat," which featured Olive Garden this week.  While we cannot imagine the New York Times food critic endorsing this chain known for faux-talian eats, few cities can top the culinary adventure that is New York.

Though I had the privilege of deciding whether to eat tonight's dinner at a vegan Chinese, vegan Japanese, vegan Korean, or vegan Vietnamese restaurant, many people are lucky if they have even one vegan restaurant within a reasonable distance to home. Of course, I love NYC for its culinary diversity, but everyone has her own personal reasons for living where she does, and who are we, the culinary snobs of the internet, to judge what a person enjoys?

While I found the Gawker responses (http://gawker.com/5891763/a-treasury-of-unironic-olive-garden-restaurant-reviews) to be quite humorous, there's a huge sense of elitism that entitles people to criticism another person's taste.

Hagerty comes off as an honest and excitable woman:  she's easily impressed by the Tuscan interior of her local Olive Garden and appreciates the warm bread sticks that arrive endlessly at her table.  She orders fettucine alfredo and enjoys the presence of a waiter ready with parmesan cheese hovering expectantly over her dish. Are these things so bad? Must we diss those who are impressed by the pleasures in life?

Hagerty labels the establishment "the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks."  Sure, it may not meet up with Manhattan standards, but we have to assume the Hagerty, a longtime resident of Grand Forks knows what she's talking about. Manhattanites, Brooklynites, online New York wannabes: relax. It’s just pasta!