As every nutritionally-astute human being knows, there are six major food groups.
Fruit and Vegetables
Meat and Protein
Fats, Oils and Sweets
and - of course - since its introduction in 1978, the Pot Noodle.
I know they’re bad for me and I haven’t eaten one in a long time, but I’ve got a nostalgic affection for those little containers of salt and MSG, that no amount of dietary knowledge will ever supplant.
I remember vividly, the day my brother Joe brought a chicken and mushroom one home, having spent some of his paper round money on this most worthy of acquisitions. Our house in 1978 was never at the forefront of technological innovation. We were all still getting over the cultural shock of watching a colour telly and not having to go to number 14 if we wanted to use a phone.
Whilst he put the kettle on, all of us kids sat round the table and just stared at the Pot Noodle. It looked amazing. It was colourful and made of plastic and it had a foil lid. A foil lid, I tell you! When NASA launched the Space Shuttle, three years later, I was far less impressed.
Joe brought the boiled kettle over and peeled the lid. We fought for a better view of what was inside. It was basically a ball of frozen tapeworms with a light dusting of snuff. But what was that lying on top? Joe removed it and held it up for our adoration. I asked in wonder,
“What’s a sat-shit, Joe?”
“It’s sash-shay, you dickhead.”
New ‘continental words’ as well! Was there anything the Pot Noodle couldn’t do?
Then he poured the water in and an amazing transformation took place. It bubbled and frothed and the tapeworms melted. The snuff became a sauce and the sat-shit was distributed for flavour. It was done! But what was this? Joe was closing the lid.
“You have to leave it to rest for two minutes.”
It was the longest 120 seconds of my life. The lid was shut, so we couldn’t see what was going on, but the chemical smells sneaking through the gaps were tantalising and exotic.
Eventually the clock ticked round and the meal was prepared. A pot that was full of noodles. What more from life could anyone want? Joe, being the owner and a tight bastard, didn’t even let us have a mouthful, just a piece of noodle, half a matchstick in length. It was enough for me to boast about it in school the next day, though! This was our teacher asking,
“Who wants to hear Charlie’s Pot Noodle story again?”
So, despite there probably being more nutrition to be gained from eating the foil, I’ve retained a fondness for the ‘Papa November’ (as it was referred to by British soldiers).
When I was in fifth year, one of my mates brought one along to a football match we were playing in. He was smart enough to bring a flask of boiling water with him, but not smart enough to remember not to throw his bag against a wall. With the prime catalyst missing in order for the magic to happen, his post-match snack seemed done for. It was only with mild horror that we watched him fill it up with warm water from the showers instead and I was still up for a gnaw on the semi-solid, savoury rounders ball that was produced.
Somewhere in the mid-nineties, when I realised that food was supposed to supply things other than salt and instant gratification, I stopped eating them. For the purposes of this blog, I had a little look at what’s gone on in subsequent years, in the world of the Pot Noodle.
Someone in their marketing department - in order to combat the Super Noodle - came up with what I think is the most brilliantly named product currently available, the ‘Wot? Not in a Pot Noodle’.
Our friend Clare was round the other night and told of a mysterious dessert version, whose star shone but briefly. Another pal, Tim subsequently hunted around the internet and unearthed the ‘Pot Sweet’. I never had one, which is probably a good thing, as I imagine it would still be stuck to my ribs now.
It’s the way of the world, though, that things that were once fashionable, can often come full circle and enter our lives again, sometimes ironically, or sometimes because we’re sick of food that’s good for us. This limited edition beauty is the ‘poulet et champignon’ flavour that was sold by Harrods for £30 in 2008.
So, as soon as I finish this blog, I’m going to throw all my pad thai in the bin and get myself a chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle, with a thick-sliced shitty white loaf. Then I’m going to eat it, making four or five butties, with a glass of undiluted Kia-Ora to accompany it.
What harm can it do?