Food & Drank: Cafe Mac Rice Noodles

By Abbie Shain

Here’s the thing about recipes. They’re pesky. When I cook, I don’t necessarily want someone to tell me what to do and when to do it. I generally argue with cookbooks. I disagree with how much garlic to put in. I think that there should be olive oil instead of grapeseed oil. Most cookbook writers completely ignore deeee-licious vegetables like beet greens, which I like to throw in at opportune times. And what couldn’t be improved by a little sprinkle of parsley? Don’t even get me started on how small to chop the vegetables, or what type of pan to use … sometimes, my opinions are so fundamentally opposed to the recipe that I slam the cookbook shut in frustration. OK, maybe I am exaggerating. Some would ask, if recipes are so limiting, why use them? I say, for inspiration! Maybe I’m making tabouleh salad. I think that it should involve some couscous and some fresh summer vegetables. I peruse the internet. I leaf through four or five cookbooks. Some say to use bulgur wheat, some say wheat berries or couscous, and one even says quinoa. Some say to use cilantro, some say parsley. Cucumbers. Tomatoes. Mint. Onions: red, yellow, spanish. The options seem endless, but I never would have thought of all of those ingredients without that research. Still, with a proliferation of ideas, what’s a girl to do? This is when I turn into a cook, and not a mindless, recipe-following drone. Anyone can do this. If a recipe calls for tomatoes and you don’t like tomatoes, what are you going to do? If a recipe says two garlic cloves but you want three, what are you going to do? Isn’t there a saying: “Taste is the mother of invention.” Guess what? You know what you want to eat better than some cookbook. I find it helpful to think of recipes as loose guides. I know that this may seem like a scary thing to do. And I am not advocating that you throw caution to the wind and start adding marjoram to your coffee or cumin to your cookies. Experimenting with minor substitutions or additions, however, can help you gain confidence as a cook. You can start by adding simple ingredients like lemon or parsley to pasta or hummus and being more adventurous from there. Baking is the big exception to this categorical rule. Baking is a science. The main alteration I make to baked goods is adding chocolate. And in my book, this is nearly always a good thing to do. Similarly, walnuts and/or pecans are usually good additions to banana bread, pumpkin bread, cookies or scones. You should probably follow baking recipes unless you are very experienced or are adapting a recipe to veganism. A quick note on making things vegan: 1/4 cup of applesauce for every egg works for nearly every recipe. Poof – vegan! This column will be including many recipes. I write this because I want you to have the the freedom to follow them to the letter, but also the freedom to use them as inspiration and to embark on a culinary journey that is all your own. Maybe you don’t like a spice that I suggest? Substitute it out! Maybe you’re out of that vegetable? Use those spices with chicken. Have fun with your food, and make it so that you like it, not so that it fits some egocentric cookbook writer’s concept of gourmet fabulousness. Because food that tastes good to you is infinitely better than food that follows some pesky recipe. Recipe: Cafe Mac Rice Noodles Ingredients: -Rice noodles (sometimes, when Café Mac has something like Korean soup at the Curry Station, they have rice noodles in the condiment section. CAPITALIZE!) -Soy sauce from the East Station -Hot sauce, if you like things spicy -Spinach/mushrooms/carrots from the salad bar -Protein source (either chicken breast, tofu cubes from the burrito station, or something creative) Instructions: 1. Grab a cereal bowl, and serve yourself noodles. 2. Dress your noodles with desired vegetables, protein sources, and sauces. 3. Place in the microwave by the salad bar/pizza nook for 45-60 seconds. Ta-da! Delicious Café Mac cooking!