Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nobody Can Eat Fifty Egg(rolls). But We Try.

I am a little disgusted by marathon eaters, as I think many people are. It takes all the joy out of eating a hot dog when you eat 50, with water-logged buns no less, and then throw up afterward.

But I guess that makes me a bit of a hypocrite when you consider that the other night, I plowed through seven egg rolls as my husband and my father battled over who would break the all-time record of ten. My own personal record is nine, which is something that I am embarrassed to be a little proud of.

Because these are not garden-variety egg rolls. They are not Chinese take-out picked up on the way home, or hastily pulled from the freezer. These egg rolls, stuff of family legend, are homemade, hand-rolled, individually fried cocoons of wonderment that practically beg to be eaten by the dozen.

My aunt and uncle encountered the recipe for these egg rolls while they were living in the Southwest and introduced them to us many years ago, when they first moved to Minnesota. Since then, egg-roll night has become a most anticipated eating event, one that moves us to clear our calendars and starve ourselves the rest of the day.

They are in the kitchen for upwards of five hours, cooking pork and chopping water chestnuts, and then rolling and frying dozens (and I do actually mean dozens) of tart, crispy egg rolls that need to be lined up on giant cookie sheets because there are simply so many.

Then we are silent for 20 minutes: eating, refilling, eating. My brother-in-law stood near the food, both for easy access to the rolls and because, he said, you can fit more in when standing up. My father kept meticulous tallies of how many everyone was eating, determined to be the one to make it to eleven. My husband, who was earlier boastful that he would tackle twelve, stopped at ten and could barely move the rest of the night.

Is it worth the indigestion and slight feeling of shame? No question. We enjoy egg-roll night as much for the food itself as we do for the people who come with the egg rolls. There is a great sense of empathy that accompanies several family members who willingly attempt a Cool-Hand-Luke stunt and then lie around in misery afterward. I doubt the hot-dog-eaters enjoy the same type of camraderie with their fellow competitors.

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