I am one of those that live to eat, eat abundantly, and eat richly. I should be fat, but I am not. I’ll eat anytime of the day, and I can eat as much as any man. But, I won’t eat just anything.
I love Vietnamese cooking, home-cooking, restaurant cooking – but not egg rolls. No egg rolls. Don’t put it on my plate, I don’t want to smell it. I know the steps into making them, but don’t ask me to because I won’t. I can’t remember a time when I ever ate an egg roll even though my mother is famous for her egg rolls. My brothers loved my mother’s egg rolls. Every time Mom served egg rolls, they shoveled that stuff down, and I become a spectator – a very distant observer removed to the far end of the table. People asked my mother to make egg rolls for them all the time. Everyone loves that stuff, but me.
It’s an unreasonable and really unfair dislike. The egg rolls never did anything to me. I never got sick by eating one. My mother didn’t enslave me to cooking duty to make them. Maybe I just hate them because everyone loves them so. I am odd and temperamental in that way; and very disappointing.
And I do occasionally disappoint non-Asians who meet me and expect a mafia connection to the eggroll express. I can detect one before they can shake my hand. Their eyes light up, and they smile. They ask if I know how to make egg rolls, or if I know someone who makes eggrolls. Then I tell them the hard truth: I absolutely hate egg rolls, and I don’t associate with people who make them (when they are making them), so there is no way I can broker a sale. That’s the sad truth.
And people don’t want to hear the truth. They look at me with genuine disappointment like I had failed my race, like I was their last hope for egg rolls. So I tell them what I know: mix together ground pork, chopped cabbage, minced onion, salt, pepper, fish sauce; roll them inside an egg roll sheet, and fry in a deep vat of oil until brown. Good luck.
“How much ground pork, cabbage, onion, salt, and pepper?” they ask.
“As much as you like: more meat than cabbage if you like it meaty,” I say.
“Where can I get this fish sauce and egg roll sheet?”
“Any Asian market.”
“Where’s the nearest one?”
I always end up spending 10 minutes more giving directions, and praying for an escape.
“Can you come show me how?”
“I really hate that stuff. And I don’t cook Vietnamese,” I beg off.
The light leaves their faces and I am a bad Vietnamese.