I have always believed in the idea that family is not restricted to flesh and blood relatives. Family is the people with whom you feel safe and comfortable in all interactions, and for me, those are my friends. With this as an example, I argue that being with people you enjoy can make even the blandest food taste better.

I do not have many strong memories of eating with my family during childhood. My mother was chronically ill and unable to cook, and by the time my father came home from work, he was often too tired to cook anything. “Family dinner” was a highly stressful affair where even my favorite foods made me sick to my stomach.

 

Joa Grober's Food Story

When Cup Ramen is Better than Steak

Beginning in middle school, however, I have vivid memories of eating with my friends at their houses, with their families, and actually enjoying the same foods. Around this time, I started becoming interested in anime and cosplay. In sixth grade, I attended my first anime convention and have been going to various ones across the Midwest ever since. The one that holds the fondest memories is Anime Midwest (AMW). 

While AMW is considered one of the best conventions among Midwest cosplayers, something particularly special about it is the ConSweet. According to AMW’s website, the ConSweet provides attendees with free and unlimited rice, ramen, and soda throughout the weekend. It is not difficult to imagine the popularity of such a setup amongst the teens and young adults who compose the majority of congoers. However, the ConSweet is not popular just because it is free. At all hours of operation, the ConSweet lobby is packed with people making new friends and meeting old ones. It is where you go to be with people.

 

The ramen is nothing fancy: Maruchan Instant Lunch cup ramen in shrimp, beef, or chicken flavor. The rice and soda are not head-turners, either: plain white rice; Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, and the occasional bottle of root beer. However, the unremarkable foods turn into the most delicious meal ever when eaten at the ConSweet.

 

I have made the same ramen in my dorm at Beloit College, but every time it tastes depressing. Why is ramen from the ConSweet so fulfilling? The answer, I believe, lies within the context in which it is consumed. At college, I eat it alone in my room when I am tired and stressed. At AMW, ramen is consumed and shared with friends during a weekend of high energy, fun, and freedom. 

When sharing food or simply eating with someone else, the positive experiences associated with socializing and eating are combined. The better the friends, the better the food. The people I choose to eat with are my family, and no matter the ingredients, temperature, or texture, the food I eat with them will be the most exquisite delicacy in the world.

Cup Ramen Recipe