BY SUSAN ROSSER
A wise woman once said, “You can pretty much throw anything in an egg roll wrapper, roll it up, fry it, and it will be extraordinary.” OK, I admit that woman was me. But that little morsel of culinary wisdom has turned out to be even more insightful than I ever imagined.
Let me explain.
Back in August, my husband and I planned to drive up to Washington, D.C. to take our youngest daughter to college for her freshman year. The university had put many safeguards in place to ensure the move-in process would be as safe as possible in the middle of a global pandemic. But alas, sometime in August came that dreaded email announcing the fall semester would be conducted online. And only a tiny fraction of students with extenuating circumstances would be offered on-campus housing.
To say my daughter was disappointed would be an understatement. After missing the end of her senior year, graduation, prom, summer plans and more… heading off to college was that one last nugget of normalcy. And now that was gone too.
Yet, she is resolute and determined to learn. She set up her older brother’s vacant room as her office for the semester. (He is away at college.) She ordered a new desk chair and a shabby chic area rug to spruce up the space. She is an excellent student, and her motivation to succeed amidst less than ideal circumstances is inspiring.
So we planned and hoped for a spring semester on campus. We talked about our drive up in January. Every now and then, when I would go into our office closet, I would see her stash of dorm room supplies temporarily stored there, and I would feel a tinge of sadness for all that she is missing. But still, there was the hope of spring.
And then one Friday afternoon, she plunked herself down on the couch and delivered the awful news. The university announced that the spring semester would also be online. Her hopes dashed again.
But what suddenly occurred to me is that while I knew what a complete let down this time has been for my daughter, I needed to see this as an opportunity. Full disclosure — she is my youngest, and I was somewhat dreading life as an empty nester.
The next few months may be the last time I get to live under the same roof as my daughter. I must make something memorable out of our time together.
Typically, if one of my kids was going through a rough time — like say, missing your freshman year of college — I would try to make up for it. I might plan a trip or some other adventure. But in the middle of the Covid crisis, our options are severely limited. Travel is certainly off the table, while other options are simply out of my price range. A month in Monaco sounds fantastic but expensive.
And then I remembered the egg roll recipe featured in this issue’s Creatively Cooking column along with my deeply held belief that anything — even lowly leftovers — is transformed above their station when fried within the confines of the simple egg roll wrapper. I need to take this time of mounting disappointments and remodel it into something meaningful. In short, I need to deep fry this crappy year until it is pleasingly golden.
Of course, I have no clue yet how I will accomplish this daunting task. Over the summer, I instituted family happy hours — hoping my kids would remember their cool mom who mixes an exceptional margarita instead of a summer of lonely doom and gloom. I suspect any or all of my attempts may pale in comparison to spending freshmen year living and studying in D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. But I am determined to repurpose this year of disappointment.
And even if I’m not successful, hopefully, my daughter will look back on this time and recall not everything she missed, but rather her zany mother who, for reasons unexplained, was always frying up some egg rolls.
How to Make Thanksgiving Egg Rolls
First, buy some eggroll wrappers, which for reasons unknown, you can find in the produce section at Publix. Next, retrieve all of your leftovers and put them all out on the counter. Decide what you want to stuff inside your egg rolls. Each wrapper holds about 2 tablespoons of filling. Be careful not to overfill. It is tempting, and I’ve done it. It’s not pretty. Luckily directions for rolling the eggrolls are on the back of the package.
I like to fry them. Heat a large, deep skillet and add enough canola oil to reach at least halfway up the eggrolls. Of course, you can go total deep fry on these babies, but the skillet option works well too. Turn the eggrolls a few times, so they brown evenly. Don’t step away. They cook quickly. You can also bake them in a 400-degree oven. Just brush with oil, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with your leftover gravy and cranberry sauce on the side. Plan to make extra gravy. These babies are worth it.