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The man who launched a million MSG headaches died Jan. 5, in Osaka, Japan. Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, founded Nissin Food products in 1948, and the first iteration of the salty dorm rations appeared in 1958: "Chikin Ramen." (I guess they tasted like chikin.) But before you dimiss those deep-fried bricks of starchy squiggles as mere corporate swill, consider this: Mr. Ando was moved to devise the convenient concoction by the plight of the starving, penniless populace in post—World War II Japan. "Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat," Ando declared.

At almost 700 calories a pop, instant ramen is a diet-buster, and just reading the sodium count will set your heart racing. But looked at as survival rations, it's one of the most elegant inventions of the 20th century. Unlike other "instant" foods, it requires the addition of nothing but hot water, and it's a godsend to the poverty-stricken: It offers one of the highest calorie-per-dollar ratios out there. Oodles of noodles later, we have to wonder why Ando didn't get the Nobel Peace Prize.

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