My Fall Break started last Wednesday afternoon because I did not have any classes. I was sitting in the Scholars Lounge in the Lilly Library which is my favorite place to relax. However, I had to leave soon because the library shut down earlier than the usual weekday time. I could understand because the staff also wanted to go on break too. Therefore, I went back to Martindale and read a Japanese book in the lobby.
My stomach rumbled around 5:45 pm which is the exact time I go to the Sparks Center to get dinner every afternoon. However, the building was quiet and the servery doors were closed. I thought that they were not ready to open. There were some other students who were waiting to get dinner too.
I was shocked to hear when a woman told us, “Sparks will be closed until next Sunday dinner time.” However, an even bigger shock came when I saw some of the football players I know holding Sparks boxes with one hand. I asked, “Why do you have it?” One of them replied, “Oh, they gave me dinner because I am on a football team.” Why did Sparks treat us differently? It is not fair! Him and I are both in the same grade and paid the exact same cost of room & board!
I looked inside of the box. It was just typical “Sparks food”, mashed white potato and roasted beef with pepper. Why did they not give me food? It is just a simple dish to cook! Moreover, I thought that the “special meal for the athlete” lacked a good balance of nutrition, but mainly consisted of animal fat and carbohydrates.
As an international student who does not have a driving license, I cannot go to a supermarket to buy food to cook. Although I have a bicycle, Kroger or Walmart is quite far for me. Also, I cannot carry bags; it is too dangerous to do. I could go to local restaurants because I have money, but that feels wasteful. So, I cooked various Japanese noodles for the next few days.
Then, on Saturday evening, I received a text from “Hawk” Richard Ricketts ’23 who invited me to cook dinner with him. We have started to get to know each other, as few students really care about food and like cooking. I know that many students are dissatisfied with the Sparks, but I cannot understand why they go to McDonald’s instead. Those are the same!
We strongly believe that we do not need to pay the cost for the Sparks because we are good at cooking. However, we still pay for it because of past students who fell into undernourishment and survived by eating frozen food heated by a microwave. They tried to “save” their money by sacrificing their health. Why don’t American students seriously think about what they eat daily? How did their mother raise them? Has not she ever expressed her love toward her children through food?
Both of us are lucky living in Martindale, having a clean lobby and a quite decent kitchen. If we were in the College Hall, how would we be able to survive? Anyways, when I entered Hawk’s room on the first floor, I found that he had abundant piles of food. He said that his mother always brings food for him weekly. He said that the biggest reason he does not eat at Sparks is because of the dietary restrictions caused by the different medications he has to take. It is easier for him to cook with food which his mother brings for him, instead of going to Sparks.
We were able to finish cooking and washing within an hour. We had a good teamwork sharing different roles in every moment to progress smoothly. I think cooking with Hawk was the best experience that I have done during my Fall Break while staying on campus.
The asparagus was so hard that I had to bite carefully. The bitterness poured out inside my mouth as I chewed more. Although I am a person who is fine eating vegetables, I do not like asparagus because it has its own bitterness that can destroy other taste. Personally, I prefer eating green onion because it is sweet and easy to chew. That is why it is used in various types of Japanese noodle cuisine. However, I think that the asparagus’ bitterness helped to prevent the dish from having an overly sweet taste of the sauces by neutralizing.
The mushroom comforted my tongue whenever I wanted to erase bitterness from its surface; I prefer sweet tasting food. Each mushroom contained the sauce that helped to mix with the food rather than sticking on the plate. Therefore, I ate the mushroom with other food at the same time to mix those inside my mouth.
It was my first time eating Thai noodles. I do not know how to express its texture because it is not firm like Udon noodles or soft to slip like Somen noodles (Japanese white vermicelli). The rice taste reminded me of eating Vietnamese noodles Pho. It was chewy and slightly thick to slurp the noodle, a way to express that I was enjoying it. I discovered that noodles in general can be eaten even without soup.
The salmon itself was so delicious that I thought simply grilling it with salt and butter was enough. However, Hawk came up with a wonderful idea to mix salmon with the noodles, which was quite gorgeous for one meal. Its pinkish color delights my heart as the season is changing to winter and the gray clouds cover the sky.
Usually, a salmon is dry and easy to crumble, which sometimes annoys me because it takes time by eating a pair of chopsticks. However, the sauce soaked the salmon well, which helped to maintain its shape and to have a rich taste besides salt and butter. I cannot understand why the Sparks do not provide any fish. The cliché “Because we are in the Midwest” cannot be a justified reason because I know that seafood is sold in Kroger.
I really appreciate that Hawk invited me to cook this together during the Fall Break. Or else, I would have forgotten that food is something that is enjoyable to cook and eat because of the Sparks’ shutdown. The next Break will be Thanksgiving, which will be longer, and I think the Sparks is going to shut down again. However, I am looking forward to cooking various food because I will be prepared for the next break.
Ingredients (For 2 People):
- Half a box of Thai Stir Fry Rice Noodles
- 1 Fresh Bundle of Asparagus
- 7 White Button Mushrooms
- 2 Fillets of Fresh Salmon
- 1/4 Cup of Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup of Soy Sauce
- 1/4 Cup of Oyster Sauce
- 1 Clove of Diced Garlic
- 1 Teaspoon of Onion powder
- 2 Teaspoons of Lemon Pepper
- 2 Teaspoons of Sea Salt
- 1 Tablespoon of Salad/Vegetable Seasoning
- Half a stick of Butter
How to Cook:
- Add all seasonings to taste on diced veggies.
- Adding oyster/soy/olive oil/butter as you stir.
- As veggies are cooking, boil noodles until ready.
- Then, drain noodles and add those to wellstirred
veggies on a frying pan.
- Adding oyster/soy while stirring those until
noodles start to change color and sizzle.
- Prior to stir frying noodles, prepare salmon by
coating with diced garlic, olive oil soy and oyster
sauce as well as desired dry spices.
- After completing the stirring a frying pan and
cook the salmon well down, mix those by arranging
on a plate.