Using Your Noodle:
“Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter.” -James A. Garfield
When I was in middle school, we lived a few miles outside of town on Island Ford Road in a modest ranch-style house on a very hilly lot. There was a steep flight of outdoor stairs directly across from the back door that led to the carport that my brother used as his personal Big Wheel launching platform before we actually moved in. While my parents were being shown around the new digs, my mother, checking out the master bedroom, heard a repeated, muted “thunk, thunk, ka-thunk….Wheeee!” over and over and over again. Turns out, my enterprising, thrill-seeking little bro opened the back door and, perched atop his starting line, shoved off and went barreling down the stairs, through the doorway, landing in the empty living room, shrieking with childish delight as he made a hard left, fishtailing and screeching past the brick fireplace to end his wild ride. Apparently, my mother was not pleased. Something about it being “dangerous” or perhaps that he could have “killed” himself. It looked like fun to me. At any rate, it was a great house for kids: we had a trampoline, woods to hike around in, a back yard with the most awesome sledding run where you could get some serious air on the last jump but had to really pay attention so as to not plow into a bunch of formidable pine trees at the end of the slope. And we had lots of great neighbors, including the Howells next door.
The Howells were both school teachers with two boys – a baby, about 6 months old, an older child my brother’s age – and a dog, Freckles, with the softest speckled white and champagne fur. I loved that dog.
After we had been living there long enough for Mrs. Howell to feel comfortable leaving her two children in my keep, she asked me to babysit one evening. I felt so proud – so grown up – to have been bestowed this honor. I was secretly hoping to show off my (very limited) 13-year-old cooking skills in my newly assumed responsibilities. Purse over her shoulder and a list in her hand, she ticked off the instructions – all the pertinent telephone numbers, including the restaurant where they would be dining, the doctor, fire department, etc., when to give the baby his bottle…you know, the usual routine for a parents’ night out. And then – I will never forget this – when I asked her about feeding Kevin, the older boy, she said, “Oh, he’ll just have his peanut butter sandwich. That’s all he eats. That’s all he ever eats.”
I was stunned. I have never heard of such a thing. In our home the response was simple and direct if ever I made a fuss about something on my plate: “You’ll eat it. You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.” I’m sure my scrunched up face gave away my inner confusion as I thought about this child’s eating regime. Breakfast? Peanut butter. Lunch? Peanut butter. Snacks…dinner….peanut butter? And then a single question…why???
I felt sorry for him even though I absolutely knew that every kid lives and breathes peanut butter. But look at all the other childhood culinary delights that he’s missing out on! No fried chicken? No ice cream? No macaroni and cheese? No noodles???? How completely sad! I reasoned further – peanut butter’s the bomb, but that’s it? That’s all? Like…ever?
We eventually moved to town, away from The Peanut Butter Kid, and I always wondered about him. Whether he outgrew his singular sensation or if the now 40-something is still busy schmearing some Jif on a couple slices of Wonder Bread to take to work.
I relayed this story to Adam – offering my retrospective, admittedly shamefully critical armchair parenting (What about leafy greens…vitamins, minerals…what about nutrition? And why would his parents allow this kind of behavior?). I was waiting for some deep, psychological insight in agreement about the trappings of this boy’s food complex from my extremely astute husband. But instead was forced to digest this little truth nugget as The Great One spoke worlds of wisdom to someone without kids who shouldn’t being doling out rearing advice: “Why? What’s the problem? Peanut butter’s nutritious. It’s good for you. At least he was eating. Eating something he loved.”
I have to admit, if I had to answer that proverbial desert island question and had to pick only one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be peanut butter. Well, it is nutritious. And it is good for you. Hey, Kevin, maybe you were onto something! Dang. I hate it when Adam’s always right.
This recipe is based on the peanut sauce for beef satay – but it’s more streamlined, a little quicker to pull together.
Peanut Butter Ramen Noodles
- 1 pound curly noodles
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup light (or unsweetened) coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- sugar or honey, to taste
- red pepper flakes, to taste
- Prepare the noodles according to the package directions and set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium, heat the sesame oil; add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, cayenne, cumin and lime juice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk until the sauce is smooth.
- Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste with a little sugar or honey and red pepper flakes. Toss with the noodles and serve.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: If you need to please a meat-lover, add cooked chicken, pork or beef to the dish. The sauce is also fantastic drizzled over vegetables or as a dip.
Product Purity: Feel free to substitute any noodle of your choice for the ramen-style ones the recipe calls for. Spaghetti works well. I use Smart Balance peanut butter, since many store brands still add high fructose corn syrup to theirs. I use light coconut milk, which is not over-the-top sweet.
Presentation: Serve any of the following toppings for the noodles – chopped, roasted peanuts (the easiest way to chop peanuts is to put them in a ziploc bag, seal and give ‘em a good whack with a rolling pin), steamed sugar snap peas, sliced radishes, fresh chopped mint, scallions or chives, crunchy rice noodles and lime wedges.