Program Title: The Slurpy, Messy History of Ramen
Speaker: George Solt
Date: May 19, 2014
Location: Park Avenue Methodist Church Lecture Hall
It seems a new ramen shop–or slurp shop–opens in every borough every month. The steaming bowls of rich, salty noodle soup are pursued by devotees with a cult-like fervor. They have become an international symbol of the cultural prowess of Japanese cuisine.
George Solt, Assistant Professor of History at New York University, whose work considers the connections between the political economic transformation and social reorganization of Japan in the modern era, explained that in Japan the popularity of ramen is celebrated as being representative of a bygone era of economic and political difficulty. Nothing, he said, points to this more than the completion in 1994, of the $34 million museum devoted to ramen, Shin-Yokohama Raumen.
Ramen’s popularity can be attributed to political and economic change on a global scale. Using declassified U.S. government documents and an array of Japanese sources, George Solt revealed ramen’s complex history and traced its meteoric rise from humble fuel for the working poor to international icon of Japanese culture. The shifting connections between food, labor, and nation as viewed through the lens of ramen can inform us of the parallels or divergences in the politics of food practices across advanced industrialized capitalist countries.
Slurping samples were served, prepared by a local ramen shop, but we have a tokotsu broth recipe, should you be inspired to make your own.