Faux Noodles (#361)

For decades, my neighborhood has held an annual cooking contest. Ever since Andy and I moved into the neighborhood, one of us has won it. Sometimes, both of us win it.

I can’t decide if the hostess loves or hates us.

For a few years, she was happy that the rest of the neighborhood would “up their game” to compete with Andy’s appetizers and my cakes. But then my desserts became so dominant that no one else would go up against me in the “Sweet” category.

Last year my cookies were one of two desserts. I won for both taste and appearance (though the hostess refused to give me both prizes because neighborhood goodwill or some other bullshit).

This year, the hostess decided to make it extra challenging for the contestants making desserts. The main ingredient?


Andy declared that he would make chocolate ravioli—probably because I’d repeatedly told him chocolate is always a winner.

He asked, “What are you gonna make, honey?”

I shot him a dirty look and said, “Nothing, because there’s only one decent pasta dessert and even pastia has NOTHING on chocolate ravioli, duh.” (Also, the last time Andy veered out of the “Savory” category, he demolished my miniature eclairs with his caramel pear ice-cream in homemade sugar cone spoons. I learned my lesson.)

Andy’s chocolate ravioli

Andy spent the two weeks before the contest experimenting with mascarpone cheese and all my frozen frostings as fillings.

I told Andy this meant that it would have to be a joint dish where we shared the credit.

Horrified, Andy went back to regular noodles. (Andy insists this is a lie. He says the real reason is that none of my frostings worked. Even when he froze the filling in advance, the fat would separate during the boiling of the ravioli. I told him to inject a filling afterwards. He refused.) He decided on homemade pappardelle noodles, with he would serve with his pork ragu.

This meant that I had a chance after all. If I could just find something in the “Sweet” category with noodles and chocolate.

Gen X childhood to the rescue! The most popular cookies back then were the ones kids could make themselves–without using an oven and starting a fire. One of my stepsisters taught us to melt chocolate chips and butterscotch chips together, stir in dried chow mein noodles, dump them on a cookie sheet, and call them haystacks.

I did some googling and found that folks now toss just about anything in a haystack. I went with two recipes: white chocolate/ cashews/ chopped up caramels, and butterscotch/peanuts/ pretzels/ peanut butter (with the bottoms dipped into dark chocolate).

Finding the so-called chow mein noodles in an area with a large Asian American population was trickiest part of these cookies…because those dried noodles aren’t actually used in real Chinese cuisine. Even Kroger knows this:

“Chinese Inspiration” noodles sounds much nicer than “Lazy White People Stereotype” noodles. Nice spin, Kroger.

In multiple grocery stores, I found pho noodles but no faux noodles. It wasn’t until store #4 in the old white people neighborhood that I hit the jackpot. I bought out all the faux noodles (five packs!) that had probably been shelved last century and got to work.

I finished 70 haystack cookies in under an hour. Cutting up the caramels took more time than anything else. Another reason haystacks were popular back in the day.

Meanwhile, Andy spent 5 hours making his noodles and ragu.

At the party, his dish went up against macaroni salad, pesto noodles, rotini and red sauce,  and multiple pasta salads. All the pasta was store bought except Andy’s.

Meanwhile, the dessert table should have been disqualified. There was a blackberry crumble, Rice Krispie treats, lemon bars, and two cakes. I was literally the only person with noodles or pasta in their dessert.

The hostess opted not to DQ the cheaters. After the votes were tallied, my haystacks took first in appearance. The Rice Krispie treats won for taste (highly sus).

The Savory contest was not sus: Andy’s homemade pasta won for taste, while the pasta salad in the pretty bowl won for appearance.

When the hostess handed out prizes, the other winners got wine. Andy and I got identical boxes.

Off my quizzical look, the hostess said, “These two go together.”

At home, I unpacked three colorful pasta bowls from my box. Andy unpacked another three from his box.

A set of six colorful bowls in different patterns.

“These are really nice,” Andy said.

“Way better than wine,” I agreed. “And a very fitting prize.”

No way did those Rice Krispie treats deserve a bowl awarded for noodles.

Or even faux noodles.









Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

22 thoughts on “Faux Noodles (#361)”

  1. Love this story. Noodles are a personal thing, obviously. I haven’t thought about those cookies in YEARS and yet reading about them I immediately wanted to eat one. I like your bowls, very pretty– and fitting.

    1. So pleased that you remember the haystacks, too. I never got around to making the originals, but I still have noodles. Maybe this week when the child is in garbage disposal mode. The bowls are the nicest prize we’ve ever gotten.I wonder if our hostess decided in advance we’d probably get the whole set.

  2. There’s no way rice crispy treats could ever taste better than haystacks. My mom used to make those all the time and my dad’s girlfriend actually made them for Christmas this past year. I ate about 100 of them. Definitely sus.

    Anyway, this is the one time each year when YOU make ME hungry with your blog. Congrats on the bowls!

    1. Another Gen X kid! I totally get why moms went for those cookies. So easy. The Rice Krispie treats were actually decent, and lighter than the haystacks for sure. But definitely not noodles! Gotta wait for rice to be the main ingredient. Maybe next year?

  3. Never heard of haystacks. Does that make me old? My grandparents were immigrants so everything sweet was Austrian pastries. Not complaining. Yum! I need to visit your neighborhood during this contest. I could be a judge. My vote could be bought. Those dishes were better than any wine.

    1. No one with access to Austrian pastries would settle for haystacks!I’d take a pastry any day. The haystacks can be overly sweet, which is why adding peanuts and pretzels is a good idea.

    1. Oh, good question. You probably could–just fry them up and let them dry. Probably thicker noodles would work better. I did see one hardcore recipe where you fried your own noodles into different shapes, but I was trying not to heat up the house.

  4. I’m not familiar with haystacks either, but I applaud you for your creativity. As much as I love Rice Krispies, there is no way RK Treats could have held a candle to your haystacks!

  5. I’ve never had haystacks. They sound decadently yummy with all that white chocolate, cashews, chopped up caramels, butterscotch peanuts, etc. I remember well those dried chow mein noodles, chop suey, egg foo yong that they served in “Chinese” restaurants before we learned about real Chinese food. We also had some strange American food.

    Your yearly cooking contests sound like fun. I can’t believe how seriously you research and test your recipes. You and Andy deserve all those beautiful noodle bowls.

    1. Thanks, Nikcki! Andy did more tests than I did. I just spent more time at grocery stores this year. Also wallowing in a bit of nostalgia. I think every country modifies imported cuisine according tho their own perceptions and tastes–my friends in Europe have talked about the travesty that is Mexican food in Germany for many years!

  6. I just have to say… you are so creative!!!! I would have never thought of making a dessert with those faux chow mein noodles! I didn’t grow up with “haystacks” so now I’m curious what they taste like hmmmm….

    I’m also curious where those faux noodles came from? I’ve never seen them in China and I’m curious how they became so ubiquitous at Chinese American restaurants!

    And those chocolate raviolis!!! Did you make them?

    1. Haystacks are pretty sweet. I think the dried fried noodles are an American thing, created by La Choy for Americanized Chinese food. My various parental units–who were all bad cooks– sprinkled them over various chicken dishes that I have done my best to forget!

      The raviolis are all Andy. He got the pasta-making attachment for my Kitchen Aid years ago. Back before Baby D, he used to make fantastic raviolis.

  7. Thanks for the morning chortle to pho noodles as opposed to faux noodles 😀 😀 You too are so damn creative in the kitchen, I may just about give up on cooking altogether! Fortunately, Himself doesn’t read your blog, so I won’t starve 😉

    I vote for your hostess loving you. C’mon, she clearly was expecting you & Andy to walk away as winners having prepared matching prizes for you in advance.

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