The Ramen Shop recipe encapsulates all other recipes. It’s not just about the food. It’s not just about the people. It’s not just about the ambiance. It’s all of these arranged in a consistent fashion that makes a ramen shop THAT ramen shop.
When I was living in Tokyo, I used to live near a very average ramen shop that had been around a very long time and because it was literally 30 seconds from my home I found myself eating there way too often. Somedays, I would even go in my pajamas and the friendly staff would always be there to welcome me. It was my comfort when I was happy, my comfort when I was sad, and my comfort when I just needed to see a friendly face. The ramen wasn’t great, but the shop itself was one of my favorites.
Then one day, I stepped in and there was no one there to greet me. Strange music playing in the background. No sense of comfort. After seating myself I was finally brought a menu by someone I had never seen before. The menu was the same. The ramen may have been the same, but nothing felt right. I felt lost. The bowl was sloppy. The taste was salty. There was way too much vinegar. The temperature wasn’t scolding hot. The ac was damaged. The smell of cigarette smoke was still lingering. The floor was sticky . The newspaper on the table next to me was more than a week old. The pitcher of water had no ice. The tissue box was empty. Where was I?
I went back a few more times and each time just wasn’t what it used to be. I decided to stop going, not because of the food (the food was never that great anyway), but because my comfort had suddenly become my pain. I stopped craving it. I yearned for something else. I began to move on.
Two years after I moved away, I found myself in the neighborhood and decided to pass by. The ramen shop was gone. The entire building was gone. In its place was someone’s brand new modern house with a bmw parked in its garage. I began to crave the bowl that once was. The one that was etched in my memory. The one that wasn’t very good but came with a smiling face. The one that got me out of bed after fighting a 4-day flu. The one that was sloppy, salty, sour, and lukewarm. The one where the ac never worked. The one where cigarette smoke lingered heavily. The one with the sticky floor. The one with the week-old newspaper. The one with the ice-less pitcher of water. The one that was never the one in the first place. I missed the one as it used to be whole. I really needed that tissue.
The ramen shop recipe had been broken, never to be fixed again.