While ramen has been a part of Asian culinary history since the early 1900s, in the United States, the easy-to-make noodles have gained an association with hungry college kids eating them as a last resort after spending all their money on books and booze and whatnot. Today, ramen is becoming an institution for another group of American people: prisoners.
Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona’s school of sociology, released a new report today that says ramen is becoming more popular as a prison currency than tobacco products due to a decline in the quality and quantity of the food served behind bars.
“[Ramen] is easy to get and it’s high in calories,” Gibson-Light said. “A lot of them, they spend their days working and exercising and they don’t have enough energy to do these things. From there it became more a story, why ramen in particular.”
Gibson-Light spoke to about 60 inmates over the course of a year (as part of a larger study on prison labor) and found that while “soup,” the nickname given to ramen by the inmates, has long been a prison diet staple, it has become increasingly important as the amount of meals served has been decreased. Said one prisoner, “I save all my meals to eat at once so I can actually get full.”
While a brick of ramen costs less than a dollar, they trade way above value, and if there’s a dispute involving “money,” as one inmate put it, “I’ve seen fights over ramen. People get killed over soup.”
Read more about the study via The Guardian, and maybe you’ll appreciate those miracle bricks stacked in the back of your pantry a little more.
Featured Image: The CW