Love in the new year, and learning to make Vietnamese spring rolls
Making Vietnamese spring rolls at home is easier than you might think. With a little practice rice paper, shrimp, pork shoulder, and veggies roll right up and become a delicious snack or side.
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Born in Indonesia and raised in Singapore, Patricia Tanumihardja writes about food, travel, and lifestyle through a multicultural lens and has been published in numerous national and regional publications. Pat is also the creator of the “Asian Ingredients 101” iPhone and Android app, a glossary on-the-go that’s the perfect companion on a trip to the Asian market. Her first book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens, will be available in paperback in September 2012.
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These two simple words have been on my mind since they popped out at me from a friend’s Facebook post a few weeks ago. She was recapping her past year and she ended her reflection with “When in doubt, choose love.” These words could mean many things to many people, and I’ve been thinking about what it means for me to “choose love.”
2012 was a challenging year personally and love was often in short supply. Not that I wasn’t loved, but rather that I wasn’t a very loving person. I felt so drained I had no love to give. I had to get used to the fact that my husband was 6,720 miles away and 12 and-a-half hours ahead for an entire 12 months. And I worried (and still do) about his safety, every single day. Plus, I had to adjust to solo-parenting a toddler.
After a three-year hiatus, I worked very hard to develop a book proposal (one that I thought was very sellable and timely) that was quickly shot down. I have yet worked up the nerve to submit it elsewhere. And I’m sure anyone who lives close to their parents can relate to the stress of having them live a stone’s throw away.
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Did I mention I’m solo-parenting a toddler? I definitely have a newfound awe and admiration for single parents everywhere! While I admit 2012 wasn’t all that bad – there was a trip to Vietnam to meet my husband, a paperback book launch – it was filled with plenty of angst and stress. I realize now that many of these events and circumstances were beyond my control. Yet I was riddled with unnecessary anxiety and/or reacted negatively to them.
In hindsight, I can come up with any number of, “What if?” scenarios.
What if I kept calm and didn’t raise my voice at Isaac when he wasn’t behaving the way I wanted him to? Then maybe I wouldn’t be wracked with guilt in the thereafter believing I was traumatizing my son and ruining him for life.
What if I listened patiently every time my dad complained about a new ache or pain, or expressed concern that his memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be (aging has nothing to do with it, of course!). Instead, these could have been happy dad-and-daughter moments spent over a cup of coffee, especially if the topic at hand could be diverted.
If I had chosen love in these circumstances, perhaps I wouldn’t have expended superfluous time and energy getting worked up, upset, frustrated, etc., etc., you know what I mean. Thankfully, it’s never too late. We are just a few steps in the new year but I’ve already savored the power of choosing love.
The other day, the cashier at Target had a face so sullen it rivaled Posh Spice’s – aka Victoria Beckham’s – perpetual pout (am I dating myself with this analogy?). Instead of condemning her off-putting attitude silently in my mind, I complimented her on her gorgeous red top out loud. That coaxed a smile out of both her and me.
When my toddler asks for one more book, yet another sip of water, anything he can think of, to put off going to bed, I take a deep breath, tuck his blanket under his chin and hold him till he falls fast asleep. This phase won’t last forever (I hope, gulp …). I’m off to a good start, don’t you think?
Starting with this new year 2013, whatever the season, whatever the mood, always choose love.
Vietnamese fresh spring rolls (Gỏi Cuốn)
Time: 45 minutes prep
Makes: 4 servings
I’m going to start a new column about trying dishes I didn’t think I could or would make at home. I’ve been told many times how easy it is to make these fresh rolls but I’ve always been intimidated by the rice paper wrappers. Most sources say to dip the dry rice paper rounds in water until soft but it seems impossible to get just right.