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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 57.0° F  Fair
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Tell All: Oodles of noodles
Ramen secrets revealed

Dear Tell All: I have a follow-up question to the results of your ramen noodle experiment reported on 9/10/2010. Does every package of ramen noodles have "68 20-inch pieces and over 40 smaller ones"? In other words, how good is the quality control for ramen noodle package production?

The Noodle Wonder(s)

Dear Noodle Wonder: Oh no, I'm not falling for this. I'm not going to be snookered into spending another evening in noodle-counting hell. Besides, I already know that not every package contains exactly 68 20-inch pieces and over 40 smaller ones, because I broke several in the process of counting them - some out of anger, some out of spite and some simply because of the whole "eating Jell-O with chopsticks" nonsense.

I always assumed that ramen was imported. I figured that helped explain how they could sell six packages for a dollar: by using cheap overseas labor. The same Third World children who spend their days lacing up Nike tennis shoes probably spend their nights weaving bricks of ramen. I mean, it's essentially the same skill, right? But it turns out that Maruchan ramen is manufactured right here in America. Maruchan cranks out 3.6 billion packages of ramen a year; enough noodles to stretch from Earth to Mars and back again.

Of course, if the mathematician who figured that out is the same nimrod who neglected to convert English measurements to metric in 1999, sending a $125 million Mars orbiter crashing into the planet's surface, you should probably take that with a grain of salt - which shouldn't be too difficult, since ramen is loaded with the stuff. In fact, each serving mainlines 37% of your daily dose of sodium. And if that's not enough to make you twitchy, there are two servings per container!

Ramen starts out as a long, continuous sheet of dough. It moves along a conveyor belt through a slicer, which cuts it lengthwise into long, continuous noodles. When the noodles hit a slower-moving belt on the other side, they form the wavy pattern we've all grown to love. Then another slicer cuts the noodles widthwise and folds them over into wallet-shaped blocks. Since each block is made up of the same number of strands, I imagine Maruchan's quality control is actually pretty darn good. But really, who's going to bother checking? Only an idiot would count the noodles. Wait a second....

Do you have a question about life or love in Madison? Write Tell All, 101 King St., Madison, WI, 53703. Or email

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