Chinese Spring Rolls

Why I Hate Cooking

I just remembered another reason why I never cooked in The States before: 1. It’s expensive. In China, I attempted to cook most of my meals when I thought the bad, often reused oil in the dingy restaurants was a cause for the acne breaking out all over my face (read about that here). Cooking at home also turned out to be very economical; I could buy a week’s worth of vegetables, meats and fruits for less than $20. Unlike Thailand, it was cheaper than eating out.

Fast forward to the now, I just spent about $70 at the grocery store, and that’s probably not the only time I’ll have to go this week. Partly, it’s due to my not having any of the basics for this cooking homework I’ve so stupidly brilliantly assigned myself (why didn’t I choose sewing, or fantasy football, or even animated films with clay figures, like some of my classmates?), so I have to buy all the scratch materials, including sugar, salt, oyster sauce, flour, etc. It all adds up quickly.

This week, I decided to make Chinese Spring Rolls (also called Egg Rolls), which meant not only did I have to go to the regular grocery store, but I had to find an Asian market to buy authentic rice wrappers. I was, however, pleased to find at least four exist in Fort Collins and one is dedicated solely to Indian food. Score!

Chinese Spring Rolls

2. Not only did I have to go to two markets, but I also had to go to a liquor store. This recipe called for 1tbsp of white wine and, guess what fellow Oregonians? You cannot buy wine in Colorado grocery stores, nor can you buy beer over a certain alcohol limit.

Colorado loses big points for this massive inconvenience. Luckily, it makes up for it elsewhere.

At the liquor store, I stood in the aisle and wondered which kind of white wine I was supposed to use, and if the recipe would even notice if that tiny tablespoon of liquid was missing. If it had been any other substance, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered. I love wine, and any excuse to drink it is fine by me. The problem? I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a bottle of white before. I’m a red girl, through and through. I navigate those aisles easily – from Malbecs, Cabs, Merlots, Pinot Noirs; I like them all – but the whites? They are foreign to me.

I chose the only one I remember liking, a Pinot Grigio from Cupcake Winery, and an Argentian Malbec, just for good measure.

Chinese Spring Rolls

I followed this detailed (with photos and tips!) recipe from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen, and the process went rather smoothly, if a three-hour process for anything can be considered smooth. Which brings me to my next reason to hate cooking – 3. It’s way too time consuming. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but damn. Three hours and two glasses of wine later (hey, I had to try the white stuff, and there’s a lot left after that tiny, required tablespoon), I finally had a rack of fried ovals filled with ground turkey (the store was out of chicken…) and vegetables.

Then I ate too many, dipping each savory bite in sweet chili sauce (it takes me back to Thailand every time). 4. I always eat too much. When I felt sick, I  left them on the counter with a note that said, “Help Yourself!”

What I meant by that was, “Please, dear roomies. Eat these before I do.”

And then, because this whole cooking thing took up the majority of my Sunday afternoon, I moved from kitchen to desk for some overdue study time. The glass bottle of white wine came too.

When I emerged, all but one of the spring rolls were gone. I devoured it and then patted myself on the back for a job well done. I’d say these Chinese spring rolls were a hit, but that might just be the wine talking.

Chinese Spring Rolls

Reflections

I’m feeling more confident in veering from the recipe, if only slightly. Not to say I did that, exactly, because I’m pretty sure choosing a wine and using ground turkey instead of chicken don’t exactly qualify as straying too far from the book, but they’re a start. And I do feel as though I will eventually be able to use it as a guide, not a rule.

Also, despite the negativity of this essay, it’s not all hate. I am beginning to enjoy the process. It does take my mind off things, gives me a goal to work toward and a reward at the finish. I’m even starting to cook breakfast more regularly, and dinners too, though not as elaborate as the Asian dishes I attempt here. Over time, and when this class assignment is over, I’ll be curious to see if I continue to spend a few hours of my nights/weekends cooking up something I’ve never tried before, or if I’ll simply revert back to the excuses I’ve used before: too expensive, too inconvenient, too time consuming, and I don’t want to cook it because I don’t want to eat it.

Only time will tell.

 

 

8 Comments

  1. James says:

    Jessica:

    You need to get a pressure cooker and start making one-pot meals. I just made Vietnamese chicken ragout (called “lagu” here) and it was so easy, cheap and delicious. Seriously. One pot meals is the way to go!

  2. Adelina says:

    Spring rolls are tough to make and definitely take too long! They look yum though. Good job!

  3. Emily says:

    The fact that the title of your post on cooking is “I hate cooking” embodies so many of the feelings I have toward this domestic disturbance. While I’ve never cooked outside of America, I do agree with you that cooking here is EXPENSIVE. Especially when following a recipe, and going entirely from scratch (I cheat here and there with the pre-made condiments. My excuse is “i’m a grad student, and life is hard.” Usually works on most people.)

    Doesn’t it feel good when someone else eats your food?! Normally when I cook, I cook for me and and my roommate, so when she tells me it’s good, it gives me an extra boost that says, “hey, you got this.” Do you normally cook for your roommates too? If this is the first time, I suggest doing it more. While all the toil in the kitchen can sometimes spoil our own appetites, seeing someone else enjoy your hard work can reverse the negatives dramatically.

    As for you veering from the recipe, you definitely did, so give yourself that street cred! Ft. Collins does not exactly provide us with a stunning array of foods to choose from (you can see that from the sole fact finding vegetables was difficult.) While our resources are limited, I too am finding some feeling in cooking. As you said, “it’s not all hate,” and I think those negative feelings come from an unfamiliarity. We tend to fear what we don’t fully understand, and despite your extensive experience cooking overseas, cooking at home (or rather in America) is something we’re both navigating, so we’ll see where this strange adventure takes us!

    Keep on cookin’, girl, and if all else fails, we have wine 😉

    • jessicajhill says:

      Thanks, Emily. I agree it feels good to have others eat my food…but only if they didn’t watch me make it for the first time, and I deem it edible before they try it!

      I’ve heard there are a few great Indian and Thai restaurants here, as well as Italian. Perhaps we should give them a try!

      At least in an Italian restaurant, we have good wine 😉

  4. Michelle says:

    Congrats and good job Jess! Keep it up. I recently attempted egg rolls in a cast iron pot. The first time around I used regular old veg oil or maybe even canola…. but.. the second time was the charm with GRAPE SEED OIL. It has a higher smoke point so will get hotter without burning from what I understand. It also seemed easier to digest. Maybe if you try again you can attempt a southwest egg roll of sorts for fun: Chkn, corn, black beans, and maybe avocado???
    Give it a try and experiment w new ingredients. Also play with your sauces. As to the comment of the reward to watch others… I invented 2 games: How much would it cost? and what’s my score. I make my bf or mom or friend or whoever tell me a score from 1-10 and explain why. (I usually score myself also, being my worst critic of course). the other game is us trying to break it down and figure out “Damn, if we went out to eat on a Friday night, we’d pay at least 18-25 bucks a person w drink, tip and meal.” and then figure… “Hey, this just cost about 8 bucks/person!!” One last + of cooking at home–you know who’s touching your food and how fresh it is. I sometimes get the heebie jeebies when the guy takes my dirty $$ and then reaches to touch my food after he got done hacking his brains out during flu season. Gross 🙁

    • jessicajhill says:

      Haha – that last line made me laugh out loud. I never thought of playing a rating game with my cooking, but I like that idea! Maybe this week I’ll have my roommates rate it and tell me why…though they’re both too sweet to be bluntly honest if it tastes terrible.

      I love the idea of a SW egg roll – I’ve never heard of those, but they sound absolutely delicious! I might have to give those a try! Thanks for the tips, Michelle.

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