Season 2, Episode 028: My First Time

season 2 of raconteuse radio

Guilliean reads her creative non-fiction piece of the same name. Stream it and read along with the text!

Music: Casbah from Music Sesame.

The first time I had a transformative bowl of killer ramen was the day after my first date with my boyfriend. Being American, all I knew was Maruchan. However, my genetic disposition for heart disease put the swift kibosh on that. But, at its core, I knew ramen was soup. I was raised on soups and stews. I could get on board with that. My handsome date advised adding black garlic oil to whatever ramen bowl I chose that day. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but I implicitly trusted him.

The restaurant was a scant five-minute drive from my house. Inside, he ushers me into what I came to learn is an authentic down-home ramen joint. Well, as down-home as you can get in Southwest Las Vegas. I was nervous for several reasons. First, it was still 100+ degrees, as was typical of an early September in our desert hamlet, so why were we pursuing piping hot broth at one in the afternoon? Second, I wanted to impress him with my chopstick skills, having charmed him with my clumsy wiles. Finally, I wanted to attempt to impress him enough to continue being in my life.

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After the requisite small talk and further recommendations on how to personalize my bowl, I chose Tonkotsu broth, original level spice, and the black garlic oil to complement the chashu pork, fried garlic, kikurage, bamboo shoots, green chives, ground pork, sesame oil, and shredded black pepper. I learned that day that ramen isn’t a meal that you’re supposed to savor; you’re supposed to slurp it down and move on. I ate every last morsel, drinking the last of the now lukewarm broth to get my money’s worth.

That bowl of ramen set me on the path of delectable righteousness that I strive for today. I developed my signature bowl consisting of thick noodles, Tonkotsu broth, black garlic oil, chives, a dash of soy sauce, a scoop of fresh garlic, with a hard-boiled egg, pork chashu, as well as fresh corn and tofu, as my toppings. This judgment came after many months of trying different types of broth and toppings at several restaurants. I chase this high every time we eat ramen. My encumbered brain clears as the broth cures the ails in my body. I feel complete as the ladle chimes against the ceramic bowl, and the muddled clink of the disposable chopsticks lay to rest against my battle-scarred paper napkin.

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I will never not desire a bowl of authentic ramen if the opportunity is there. A San Francisco summer is more appealing than a Vegas summer when enjoying hot and fresh ramen. But the outside weather never trumps good food. My inner dowsing rod aims straight for the meal that completes me. My pursuit of disposable comestibles is who I am. I will try anything once. The chefs come and go, the toppings may change, but my lust for ramen will never perish.

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Guilliean Pacheco (she/her) is a writer and editor of Filipino heritage and the host of the City of Writers podcast. Her work has appeared in TechTarget, Nevada Humanities, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an M.F.A. in Writing from the University of San Francisco and is an Anaphora Arts poetry fellow. She’s a misplaced California girl who lives in Las Vegas normally, if one could call living there normal, on Southern Paiute land. Follow her on Twitter.

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