“So, what story are you going to tell me today, Mr P?” asked the kid. P had his own secret name for the boy and it was Dennis the Menace. There seemed to be a lot in common between the kid and the cartoon character. Usually P gave him a wide berth, but today, however, his parents had asked P’s help to look after him while they took their younger one to the clinic. The baby had been crying all night and the parents had decided to seek the doctor’s help.
P had agreed to look after Dennis because he had some time on his hands and there were plenty of packets of Maggie noodles in the pantry. P had a theory that most kids seemed to like Maggie noodles… The little menace in front of him, also it seemed, was very fond of noodles… If it hadn’t been for the noodles, P would not have agreed to take on the responsibility of looking after the kid and giving him lunch as he had no idea about what to cook to keep the boy happy.
“Mr P… Didn’t you hear me? What story are you going to tell me today?” asked Dennis. The boy had wanted to play football inside the house and P had dissuaded him from it with the promise of a story. However, nothing was on his noodles other than the thought of how noodles were going to save his day.
“Well, how about a story on how noodles came on earth?” asked P.
“Don’t be stupid Mr P. Noodles did not ‘come on earth’. They were made on earth,” the boy pointed out.
“OK then, I’ll reword it. A story of how the world’s first noodles were made… Does that sound alright?”
The kid nodded and sat down on the carpet next to P.
P gathered his wits about and tried to make up a story. He cleared his throat and began…
“I heard this story from my grandmother and she had heard it from hers… Long, long ago, in the land of the yellow river, people were living happily. The river kept the land fertile and people ate cooked balls of pounded millets and grains. There was a young family of a man, his wife and two children who lived in a small hut by the river. The father used to go hunting and fishing while the mother cooked and took care of the children. In the evenings, when the father returned home with the fish and all the raw materials needed for dinner, all of them sat down together and had their sumptuous meals of millet balls, fish and a special dish that the mother used to make with stuff she gathered while walking along the river banks.”
At this point, P paused and made sure that he had the boy’s full attention. He then continued…
“Now, the eldest boy in that family was a little spoilt kid. It came to a point when he would eat only the special dish and nothing else.”
“Must have been very yum… What was it exactly?” asked Dennis, his eyes alight with vicarious satisfaction.
“It looked like noodles” P continued. “However, disaster struck in the form of a very cold and severe winter. The father could not go out and catch fish and the mother came back empty-handed for days and days when she went to gather material for the special dish. There was only flour of millets and grains in the house and meals had to be prepared just with that. The boy who would not eat anything other than the special dish was starving. It was then that the parents came out with the idea of tricking him to eat his food. While the boy, hungry and tired was sleeping, they made a paste of millet and grain flour with water. Instead of making small balls with the dough like they used to before, they stretched it out flat on the floor. They then cut thin strips out of it like strings and put them in boiling water and cooked them. The dish came out looking very similar to the special dish the mother used to cook and when the boy woke up, he ate the meal heartily. Thus the world’s first noodles were born!”
P smiled and looked at the little boy’s face, but did not see much of a reaction.
“You must be hungry now. Let me cook lunch for you. Shall I cook some Maggie noodles?” asked P and was happy and relieved to see the eager nod.
P mentally thanked God and Maggie noodles for saving him from cooking something else that would have demanded more time and effort.
As he was about to get up from the chair, the little boy said “Wait! You didn’t tell me what the mother was collecting when she made the original noodles or the special dish as you called it. What was it?”
“Oh! They were earthworms that were in plenty around the fertile banks of the river” said P and noticed the sudden nauseous look on the boy’s face.
“Can I please have something other than noodles, Mr P?” he asked squeamishly before he doubled over and was sick on the carpet. There went P’s best laid plans!