Outside, it’s snowing. My window is overlooking the city centre and has a window sill that can double as a writing desk with a radiator underneath to keep me warm. A cup of tea is releasing steam next to my computer and there is little more one could ask from a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Still, I decide to do one better and make some food as well.
I don’t have much in my dorm room except instant noodle soup – goulash taste. Perfect! As the crunchy noodles turn mushy under the stream of boiled water, I add the strong condiments that will make the noodle soup taste less like cardboard in tap water than pasta with chilly. And suddenly it hits me. Who ever heard of noodles in goulash? I remember all the Jamie Oliver shows about fresh and healthy food, all the horror stories about ready-made meals, the horsemeat scandal, and my own common sense kicks in slightly as well. And I ask myself why I like instant food so much.
The answer isn’t any of the common excuses that I can’t afford anything better. The truth is, although I like cooking, I don’t like to do it every day. And although there is nothing better than tasting that perfectly steamed vegetable full of flavour, I quite like the abrasive taste of spices (even if they are packed in a bag that looks like rat poison that should be handled with care). It turns out that what I love about instant food is the fun.
Sure, chopping and stirring and checking up on backing can be fun, too. But as I poured the boiling water over the noodles and the red powder, I felt as excited like a child watching something magical happen. A dubious bag of even less attractive food changed both colour and structure and turned itself into a fairly tasty meal in less than 5 minutes. I don’t mind if my Tesco lasagne had horsemeat in it – it was done in 5 minutes. Magic!
When talking about overreliance on ready-made meals, the ‘fun-factor’ shouldn’t be overlooked. Just think about it – if you give the children the choice between eating dinosaur nuggets and unappetising chicken back, between unattractive green cabbage and water turning goulash-red, you know they’ll pick. Even when the food truly looks disgusting, you’re allowed to put it in your mouth. It’s every child’s dream come true. Count in the short preparation time and is safe to assume that their parents will be impressed by the same.