College students everywhere owe a great debt to Momofuku Ando, even if they don’t know why. Ando, who died January 5, 2007, is the father of the instant ramen noodle, that easy, affordable dietary staple that sustains so many through their 20s and beyond.
In the years following World War II, Ando was a businessman running a modest clothing company in Osaka, Japan. The country was going through a deadly food shortage. Fresh ingredients were nearly impossible to find, and food prices were exorbitant. It was during this lean time that Ando founded Nissin Food Products and pioneered the first instant ramen noodle in an attempt to feed the starving masses. Although the initial product wasn’t exactly the cheap source of nutrition Ando had envisioned, it slowly evolved into the 20-cent no-brainer we have today. For this, dorms and duplexes should be shrouded in black to mourn Ando’s passing. But they’re not, because few people in the United States have ever heard of him.
Baltimore’s City Paper honors Ando and other great, not-quite-famous people who died last year. Other almost-famous (or infamous) subjects include Liz Renay, a mob moll actress and exhibitionist; Paul W. Tibbits, commander of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; and, strangely, A Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L’Engle, who seems too well-known for the article’s premise.