Indian supermarkets are pulling Maggi Noodles off the shelves after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India deemed them “unsafe and hazardous for human consumption.” The product was found to contain more lead than is allowed, prompting me to wonder just how much lead is allowed in our tasty noodle snacks?
Maggi noodles reminds me of the ramen I basically grew up on, the kind of thing I might still eat on a Wednesday night when I don’t get home from teaching my last class until after 10 and my dog still needs to go out. Nights like this, I sometimes like play a game I like to call the “Duane Reade Dinner.” The rules are simple, not unlike a show you’d binge-watch on Food Network: make a relatively healthy meal from ingredients you can find at the drugstore. I dare you.
So, what’s for dinner?
Growing up, we weren’t the kind of “economically disadvantaged” family that ate beans. Instead, were the kind of poor that ate ramen, regular spaghetti (sometimes with salsa if we were out of Prego), and Rice-a-Roni or— more likely— its generic equivalent. Basically anything that was cheap and filled you up. That said, how come no one told my mom about beans?
Somehow in college I discovered them, these little protein-packed vegetables that add a significant substance to a salad or make a meal out of rice. These days I’ll make a big pot of beans on Sunday and voila! lunch for all week. And if you forget to soak, all you have to do is open a can. And if you don’t have a can opener — because it fell from the dishwashing dryer rack and landed behind the oven and now you can’t reach it — Duane Reade sells cans with pop-tops, too (and probably can openers. I should check).
2. Microwave burritos
So, one thing about me: I don’t repeat foods. This means if I have tomato soup for lunch, I’ll forgo the tomato on my salad later. I know, it makes no sense, but hey, we’re not dating so it shouldn’t bother you. Taking that into consideration: unless you had a bean salad for lunch, I’d say a microwave bean burrito is a perfectly respectable choice for dinner, especially paired with a little something green. Pro tip: Throw it in the oven instead of microwaving it and the tortilla gets all nice and crispy. Just make sure it’s cooked all the way through, or else you’ll be eating a frozen frozen burrito (or at least I will be, because once I start eating, it’s like a horse out of the gate: there is no stopping me until I’m done.)
3. Chicken fingers
Chicken fingers are good, but let’s just say it: leftover chicken fingers taste like chewy air. I recently discovered a solution, though, that I am happy to share. Cut them up and put them on a salad with cashews, doused in a tangy dressing, and you’ve got something like what they might serve at Wendy’s under some semi-racist name. You can pretend this is healthy (Wendy’s does!).
“Oatmeal for dinner?”
“Sure why not,” my coworker Britt says. Britt just lost more than 30 pounds by joining Weight Watchers and taking up running, so I’m considering her this article’s expert. I personally don’t do the whole “breakfast for dinner” thing, and now she’s talking excitedly about some egg and banana “pancake” concoction, but OK, sure, oatmeal. Cereal is also great for when you’re strapped for time and cash. When I lived in Mexico (and didn’t speak Spanish well enough to walk into a restaurant and order myself a hamburger) I would eat cornflakes by the lonely handful.
5. Literally anything besides instant noodles
Guys, stop eating instant noodles. Seriously, they found lead in them. LEAD. Besides this, our stomachs cannot digest them. See, even after two hours, they’re remarkably intact. That’s just gross.