Kids where I grew up were not rich; in fact, I was fully sixteen before I had a friend whose house contained two stories. The vast majority of my friends, myself included, lived in small apartments or crumbling tenements, and many of our parents lived off of government assistance, though this was a point of shame if discovered.

Everyone ate dry Mr. Noodles at school. On the bus, at recess, or for the particularly unlucky ones two or three packs for lunch. At twenty-nine cents a pack at Loblaws, and relatively filling, cash-strapped parents couldn't go wrong. I usually brought a pack or two per day; vegetable was my favourite, but chicken flavouring was acceptable too, except the yellowish "sauce" powder dyed your hands. The really cool kids ate spicy oriental. Mushroom was widely acknowledged as gross.

Part of the appeal of Mr. Noodles was its simple and fun preparation. First, lay the package on a hard surface, such as a desk or asphalt playground. Then, using your tiny primary-school-sized fists, pound on the package Donkey Kong-style until the hard slab of congealed noodles has crumbled apart into manageable bite-sized pieces. Then, open one end and fish the flavouring packet out, and pour the powder inside. Squeeze the open end shut, then pick up the bag and shake it wildly, to ensure an even spread of salt-and-MSG infused flavour crystals. After a minute or so of wild gyration, open the bag, pluck out a piece of hard, powder-encrusted ramen, and enjoy.

Luckily, and very unusually, this potent symbol of poverty actually reached a "cool" cachet, where even the wealthier kids wanted to come to school with Mr. Noodles; the din of a hundred packets of ramen being crushed with vigour marked the beginning of virtually every recess.