Friday, January 24, 2014

The Strange Case of the Ramen Girl

"Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything."  Lawrence Downes

A few months ago, "The Ramen Girl" popped up on our recorder. We set it for something else but the schedule was changed.  After we watched the film for a few minutes, we ended up wholly engaged and found it pretty entertaining...mostly the sets and mostly the noodle shop.  Because I have noodles on the brain, I thought I'd look up the film's rating and see how the young star's career fared. 

I was shocked to read that the lovely and talented young (32 years old) Brittany Murphy died in 2009 under strange circumstances. See the Wikipedia information below. Even more strange is that her husband (also 32) died a scant 3 months later from a similar cause! You wonder what happens to cases like somebody trying to figure out what happened? 

At 08:00 (16:00 GMT) on December 20, 2009, the Los Angeles Fire Department responded to "a medical request"[35] at the Los Angeles home Murphy and Monjack shared. She had apparently collapsed in a bathroom.[6] Firefighters attempted to resuscitate Murphy on the scene. She was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead on arrival[36] at 10:04 after going into cardiac arrest.[6][35]
Shortly after her death, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told the Associated Press: "It appears to be natural."[10][37][38] An autopsy was performed the day after she died. Her death certificate listed the cause of death as "deferred".[39] On February 4, 2010, the Los Angeles County coroner stated that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication. On February 25, 2010, the coroner released a report stating that Murphy had been taking a range of over-the-counter and prescription medications, with the most likely reason being to treat a cold or respiratory infection. These included "elevated levels" of hydrocodoneacetaminophenL-methamphetamine and chlorpheniramine. All of the drugs were legal and the death was ruled to be an accident, but the report observed: "the possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state."[2]
Murphy was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills on December 24, 2009.[40]
On May 23, 2010, her widower Simon Monjack was found dead at the same Hollywood Hills residence.[41] In July 2010, Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter stated that the cause of his death was acute pneumonia and severe anemia.[42] It was reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Health had considered toxic mold in their house as a possible cause of the deaths, but this was dismissed by Ed Winter, who stated that there were "no indicators" that mold was a factor.[43] Murphy's mother Sharon described the reports of mold contributing to the deaths as "absurd" and went on to state that inspecting the home for mold was never requested by the Health Department.[44] In December 2011, Sharon Murphy changed her stance, announcing that toxic mold was indeed what killed her daughter and son-in-law, and filed a lawsuit against the attorneys who represented her in an earlier suit against the builders of the home where her daughter and son-in-law died.[45]
On January 11, 2012, her father Angelo Bertolotti applied to the Superior Court of California requesting that the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office be required to hand over samples of his daughter's hair for independent testing.[46][47] The suit was dismissed on July 19, 2012 after Bertolotti failed to show up to two separate hearings.[48]
In November 2013, Angelo Bertolotti claimed that a toxicology report showed that deliberate poisoning by heavy metals, including antimony and barium, was a possible cause of Brittany Murphy's death. Sharon Murphy described the claim as "a smear".

The Happy Story of Mr. Noodle

By contrast and on a happier note, here's a piece from the New York Times written about the inventor of the instant Ramen noodle product, Mr. Momofuku Ando, who lived to be 96 - three times as long as the Ramen girl and her unlucky husband. 

Did he ever cut a noodle? I think not.


Mr. Noodle

The news last Friday of the death of the ramen noodle guy surprised those of us who had never suspected that there was such an individual. It was easy to assume that instant noodle soup was a team invention, one of those depersonalized corporate miracles, like the Honda Civic, the Sony Walkman and Hello Kitty, that sprang from that ingenious consumer-product collective known as postwar Japan.

Kyodo News, via Associated Press
Momofuku Ando in 2005.

But no. Momofuku Ando, who died in Ikeda, near Osaka, at 96, was looking for cheap, decent food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles all by himself in 1958. His product — fried, dried and sold in little plastic-wrapped bricks or foam cups — turned the company he founded, Nissin Foods, into a global giant. According to the company’s Web site, instant ramen satisfies more than 100 million people a day. Aggregate servings of the company’s signature brand, Cup Noodles, reached 25 billion worldwide in 2006.
There are other versions of fast noodles. There is spaghetti in a can. It is sweetish and gloppy and a first cousin of dog food. Macaroni and cheese in a box is a convenience product requiring several inconvenient steps. You have to boil the macaroni, stir it to prevent sticking and determine through some previously obtained expertise when it is “done.” You must separate water from noodles using a specialized tool, a colander, and to complete the dish — such an insult — you have to measure and add the fatty deliciousness yourself, in the form of butter and milk that Kraft assumes you already have on hand. All that effort, plus the cleanup, is hardly worth it.
Ramen noodles, by contrast, are a dish of effortless purity. Like the egg, or tea, they attain a state of grace through a marriage with nothing but hot water. After three minutes in a yellow bath, the noodles soften. The pebbly peas and carrot chips turn practically lifelike. A near-weightless assemblage of plastic and foam is transformed into something any college student will recognize as food, for as little as 20 cents a serving.
There are some imperfections. The fragile cellophane around the ramen brick tends to open in a rush, spilling broken noodle bits around. The silver seasoning packet does not always tear open evenly, and bits of sodium essence can be trapped in the foil hollows, leaving you always to wonder whether the broth, rich and salty as it is, is as rich and salty as it could have been. The aggressively kinked noodles form an aesthetically pleasing nest in cup or bowl, but when slurped, their sharp bends spray droplets of broth that settle uncomfortably about the lips and leave dots on your computer screen.
But those are minor quibbles. Ramen noodles have earned Mr. Ando an eternal place in the pantheon of human progress. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.

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