November 12, 2015

Finding Comfort Over Ramen Noodles in Tampa

Warm, salty, and savory. It's the flavor craved by people from cultures the world over, and we're no different here in Tampa. Ramen in Japanese translates literally to "Chinese soup," and from Asia to North America it represents comfort food prepared with a certain simplicity. Whether you acquired your taste for ramen as a frugal college student or as a student of traditional Japanese cuisine, there's a certain magic as you inhale the steam from the broth and slurp up long, curly noodles.

Ramen has been all the buzz lately at The Well. No less than three noodle shops have opened up around Tampa in the last month or so, and the latest is just up Florida Avenue from our own dining room. Then last week a food donor provided us with two whole pallets of instant ramen noodles. The packets come in either chicken or beef flavor, and are one of the most popular items among guests of our Free Market.

Several of us from my house joined Tampa's most discerning noodle connoisseurs, waiting outside the new shop up the road on its opening night. The broth was perfect, and we thoroughly enjoyed the various extra ingredients that were available to add into your bowl. It was simple, warm, and delicious. We sat and ate and talked among the upper-middle-class crowd about Seminole Heights and how the neighborhood has changed over the years. To a supermarket ramen purist, we no doubt paid too much, but the ambience was cozy and relaxed, and whole experience was sublime.

Even more recently, I sat with a friend who depends on The Well for food, watching as he heated up a couple of packets of those 25-cent beef flavored instant noodles. For all that it lacked in pedigree and plating, the bowl emanated flavor as it steamed and simmered. Both of us tired after a long day, I watched as he carefully sipped on the hot broth before rolling his eyes in relief and sighing out loud. We ate, talked, laughed about something I forget now, and leaned back satisfied in our chairs when we were done.

As I think about these two different experiences, I'm struck by how similar they are. Rich or poor, there is something magical about gathering around a table and enjoying a hot meal together. We all get tired, and comfort food provides much needed relief to people from all walks of life. We are not so different.

Food. A safe place. Community. In so many ways, we crave and respond to the same things. We believe at The Well that there is something amazing that happens when we, rich or poor or somewhere in between, come to the same table and share both a meal and ourselves. We learn so much from each other in those moments, and the conversations born there grow into amazing ideas and initiatives. It's something we strive to do often, and you're invited to be a part of it.

Let's get together and noodle on something.

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