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An Ode to Ramen Noodles 

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OK, so now you're in college. Two things are certain: 1) At some point you will be poor; 2) at some point you will get hungry. The money thing you have to figure out for yourself. As for the food thing, two words: ramen noodles.

It's OK out of the bag. It'll keep you alive. But plain out of the bag soon gets old, so you'll be tempted to give in to your budding curiosity and start adding stuff. It's OK. College is about experimentation. And for many young adults, their first time (cooking) comes with ramen.

What follows are some examples of things you can add to ramen to make it more palatable, as well as some things that might not. About half the people interviewed for this article said to use the flavor packet, while the other half said to throw it away. You'll have to decide that for yourself. (Read the ingredient list on the flavor packet some time if your chemistry textbook gets too exciting.)

Things you can add to ramen: eggs, hamburger, frozen or canned or fresh vegetables, tuna, lemon, pepper, lemon pepper, cheese, butter, onions, hot dogs, olive oil, crabmeat, cream cheese, even squid jerky. Or you can eat them raw, like lo mein noodles, with leftover sweet-and-sour and hot-mustard packets.

Ramen can even be eloquent. Say you have a date coming over. A presentable dinner of French Onion Soup a la ramen can be followed by a main course suggestion called Ramen Rangoon, something my friend John has made for many a potential girlfriend. To make the onion soup, you merely saut some onions in butter or oil until they are caramelized golden brown, mix them in with a bag of beef flavored ramen, then throw it all into boiling water to make a rich broth. Top with a piece of toasted (read: stale) bread and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. The Ramen Rangoon is achieved by mixing milk, cream cheese and a can of crabmeat with either Oriental or Shrimp Ramen and top with parsley flakes.

Be creative, but keep it somewhat realistic. Even ramen has its limitations. Don't add pet food, pudding, beer, gum ... you get the picture.

And now for the best part: In all the recipes and variations above, boxed macaroni 'n' cheese, equally cheap, can be substituted for ramen. Good luck, Godspeed and don't forget to always have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol on hand.

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