I have a desire, ability, and, because of my always surprising low blood pressure, a need to consume a lot of salt. As a result, instant ramen in many ways represented a healthy lunch option, if only because it was so salty and savory that I didn’t feel the need to eat any snacks as well. I am totally content eating ramen with two hands — one for a spoon, one for chopsticks — when at a restaurant, but if the goal is to be able to cook and eat in under ten minutes, while also typing emails with one hand, this option leaves one wanting. Still, this is how I ate ramen at home and work until about eight years ago, when I was gifted a Ramen Spoon + Fork.
At first, I thought it was a fun gift, but assumed the object, as MoMA-designed products often are, was more an aesthetic novelty than a thing I’d enjoy using. I was wrong, as it was a game-changer, and not in spite of its beatific design but because of it. The Ramen Spoon + Fork’s designer Masami Takahashi was tasked, in 2007, with updating the cumbersome spork offered at the Sugakiya Japanese ramen chain. (In general, the problem with a run-of-the-mill spork is that it’s ultimately a less functional version of the “sp” or the “ork” at a given time: Either it’s a spoon with cut-outs for the soup to fall through, or a fork with tines so shallow it could only pierce the thinnest of meats.) Takahashi’s goal was not omni-use, but to harness the power of both the spoon and fork to result in the ideal mouth experience — while eating ramen. Twirl some noodles around the tines, get some soup in the spoon’s bowl, and pop it all in your mouth. I have been to Japan and tried to eat two ramens per lunch (out of FOMO-prevention), but it’s hard for me to say I enjoyed any as much as I enjoy eating ramen every couple days at home with the Spoon + Fork. Not because the ramen didn’t taste better in Japan — because duh, it obviously did — but because it is hard to match the contentment of feeling that in a world of uncertainty, this one thing is correct.
My psychologist-consultant dad — who, along with my mom, bought me the Ramen Spoon + Fork — was once on a panel on affordable luxury and in it, as he would relay to me, he dropped this bomb: Luxury is a necessity. It’s not that without diamonds, a girl will go a life without a best friend, but that we need something outside our standard life to remind us of the magical potential of existence. And a $26 spoon that you use to eat the cheapest of lunch options is the definition of luxury in your everyday. The Ramen Spoon + Fork is a perfect gift for someone who eats instant ramen three times a week both because they like to and they need to. Good design is a short vacation.
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