Today, I woke up lazy and made myself some Maggi, and it brought back memories.
Like many of my generation, Maggi used to be vital to sustenance. In school, it was an after-school snack, in college one of the only edible things on the canteen menu. We we first started working, Maggi was still a key factor in keeping us alive. It was years before we realized there were other ways to do things.
Instant noodles, however, is a fascinating food. Maggi is nearly synonymous with instant noodles in India, but the Swiss-German company did not invent it. It started life as a luxury good, many times more expensive than regular noodles in 1958 Japan, founder Momofuku Ando's original intention to alleviate post-war food shortages. It was hardly an instant success – Nissin (the company that Ando founded) trundled along for a over a decade till the cup-a-noodle was introduced in 1971, to instant success.
It may have taken a while to get there, but get there it has. The World Instant Noodle Association tells us that 95,392,000,000 packets (that's 95 billion packets) were sold in 2010, or just above fifteen packets for every human on earth. Instant noodles is today one of the most popular foods in the world.
Amazingly, China is the #1 consumer of instant noodles (nearly 50%) while India, all those student canteens push us into #7. Japan, inordinately proud of its slow-food traditions, nevertheless manages five billion packets a year. Its citizens are just as proud of instant noodles as of sushi, having voted it their (Japan's) best invention of the 20th century. Who knew my nostalgia was getting me to bite into a full-fledged culinary revolution?
So I ate my noodles. Still edible, still far from gourmet…