Oe's Pork Noodles and Pepsi Cola

In his short novel Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness, Oe Kenzaburo describes the protagonist (known only as “the fat man”) and his son (nicknamed “Eeyore") riding their bikes every day “rain or shine, not figuratively but in fact” to a Chinese restaurant where they order pork noodles in broth and Pepsi-Cola. The son has a serious mental impairment, making “true communion” between father and son a near impossibility, but the daily ritual of going to the Chinese restaurant provides a bit of shared experience that the father, at least, seems to treasure. The fact that both father and son grow fat eating this meal on daily basis is worth contemplating, I think.

Inside, while they waited for their pork noodles in broth, Eeyore drank his Pepsi-Cola and the fat man raptly watched him drinking it. As prepared at the restaurant they frequented, the dish amounted to some noodles in a broth garnished with mushrooms and some spinach and a piece of meat from a pork bone fried in a thin batter. When it was finally brought to their table, the fat man would empty two-thirds of the noodles and some of the mushrooms and spinach into a small bowl which he placed in front of his son, carefully watch the boy eating until the food had cooled, and only then begin to eat the pork himself, probing with his tongue for the gristle between the batter and the meat and then disposing of the halved, white spheres, after examining them minutely, in an ashtray out of Eeyore’s reach. Finally, he would eat his share of the noodles, timing himself so the two of them would finish together. Then, as he rode them home on his bike with his face flushed from the steaming noodles and burning in the wind, he would ask repeatedly,
——Eeyore, the pork noodles and Pepsi-Cola were good? And when his son answered,
——Eeyore, the pork noodles and Pepsi-Cola were good! He would judge that complete communication had been achieved between them and would feel happy. Often he believed sincerely that of all the food he had ever eaten, that day’s pork noodles was the most delicious.

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