Those are the words of Sophie Diao, as she said them to me for an article one year ago today. Diao is a Google Doodle artist, though for at least today, she is also a Google Noodle artist.
If her words are taken to be truth, then Momofuku Ando was also an artist. Through creativity and innovation born of trying to solve a crucial problem, he invented the instant noodle.
Here is what Ando once said of his tenacious drive for innovation:
Ando was living in postwar Japan, observing the long, long lines for food, according to lore, when he decided to innovate not for himself, but for his fellow man. But how to help relieve the wait, if not the hunger?
Centuries of tradition dictated that the noodle dish was slow-cooked. But Japan’s adverse times didn’t have the time to spare. And so Ando worked tenaciously until, at age 48, inspiration struck, and he invented the instant noodle. His thought for food became transformative food for thought, and gustatory social change.
Working in his shed turned kitchen lab, the Taiwanese-Japanese inventor turned entrepreneur figured out how the flash-fried dried noodle could be rehydrated within mere minutes. In 1957 — Eureka! — he invented ramen. Ando packaged the innovation, and his small Osaka company, Nissin Foods, grew quickly.
Culturally, his invention’s liquid assets were manifold, as his kinked, dried noodle package took hold. Flour and palm oil and flavor packets (starting with chicken) were the basis for a culinary revolution. In 1970, the savvy Ando began exporting his instant ramen to the United States in easy-to-transport/eat-from disposable cups.
Top Ramen. Cup Noodles. His ramen was packaged many ways, growing Nissin into a $3-billion multinational.
Today, Sophie Diao pours her inspiration into honoring the late inventor on the 105th anniversary of his birth — with a set of home-page Google Doodles that depict Ando in various scenarios.
Diao, who studied character animation at Cal Arts, is one of my favorite Google artists because of how she combines influences and visual cues and reference points related to the subject at hand. “Utilizing a style reminiscent of classic Japanese anime and inspiration from the labeling on food packaging,” Google writes, “Diao wanted to turn Ando into a mascot for his greatest invention and display ramen’s universal appeal with a fun and lighthearted spirit.”
Google calls Diao’s creative result an homage to a humanitarian.
Momofuku Ando died in 2007, near Osaka, at age 96.
He was said to have eaten his instant ramen every day for decades, till the day before he died.
Around the world, as a quick and cheap and adaptable answer to need, his ramen lives on.
Happy birthday, Mr. Ando. And well-done, Ms. Diao.