A lot of reminiscing occurs in these bizarre times of Covid-19. It is rather convenient for selecting memories that had a profound impact, and remained engrained in the nerve endings of the brain as much as harrowing experiences of being a woman are. I prefer this intrusion in my memories, sharing space with anger towards perceived feminine incapacities are the heartwarming mouthwatering I-will-never-be-this-happy-again memories of food, and living a life around it.
So on a nice crisp humid morning in Hanoi nearly 3 years ago, at a lovely little hostel with breakfast included in room rate, I was left bamboozled. First morning in Vietnam, traveling from Bangkok in a plane friendly, to an airport unfriendly, walking 1km with backpacks from the bus stop to the hostel commenting on the two wheeler traffic “this is just like back home huh western travellers complaining”, I was all set for new experiences until I hit the breakfast table next morning. It was noodles on the menu, for breakfast. Unholy, unheard of in my land of dowry and hypocrisy. Noodles for breakfast. And so I did something I am ashamed of. I did not order the noodles. I orders eggs. Silly old sunny side up on cold toast with nothing redeeming about them, eggs. Eggs like your mother makes. Eggs like a wild child college kid makes when willing to impress. And it was perhaps the saddest breakfast of my life. Don’t be mistaken, I adore eggs and can have them every single day, but I was consumed by this longing for something new and something beloved to me, yet lacked the courage of experiencing potential discomfort and a ‘foreign” sensation on eating it. To look back upon it is to be alarmed at my resistance to that bowl of noodles, when I can live and die for it, can get a bowl tattooed on my leg, I sat there choosing EGGS. But don’t blame eggs, blame me. Blame the sense of protecting self from experiencing oddities even when traveling over 1000 kilometres to find them. It is easy to slip into a sense of self that is familiar, especially one that can provide some insurance for the remainder of the day. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and to try something different was challenging. And so I did not, but without fail, I longed for the newness I went there for. My own culinary contradictions confuse me more than my emotional ones. Food should be easy, and I made it more than it should be. Complicating life unnecessarily, making two breakfast items on the menu indicative of my state of mind.
So next day I ordered the noodles.
They were tasty, and felt exactly as homely as the eggs did. Rather underwhelming come to think of it, having spent a day waltzing around Hanoi and having my first bowl of Phở, first Bánh mì, and leering at chicken legs being grilled down my street, I was READY for a strange new sensation in my post-brushing-pre-coffee mouth. And it felt perfectly normal. All the build up, all the anticipation was for nothing. Comforted by hot bowl of instant noodles in flavourful broth, I felt so normal and my normalcy was so abnormal to what I considered acceptable. What a redundant journey of anticipation and uncertainty, they were noodles and noodles never disappoint. To travel all this way at feel at home in a bowl of noodle soup was unexpected, and I can probably trace my confidence in picking any such bowl to devour it stemming from that experience. So noodles I seek, noodles I love, and noodles I write stories about.
I am Natasha Y., a person who has travelled exponentially across India seeking food and leisure, and a little abroad to find noodles beyond our borders. I am spending this time of inability to travel due to Covid-19 to reflect on the delectable experiences of eating I have had over the years. Subscribe for such small pieces on food and more.