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What's the Difference?: Egg Roll vs. Spring Roll

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THE DILEMMA

You find yourself at a Chinese restaurant craving cylindrical food. But of which variety?

WHO YOU CAN IMPRESS

All the folks down at Hunan Garden. No longer do you need to hang your head in shame!

THE QUICK TRICK

If it's got a shell like a deep fried tortilla, it's probably an egg roll. And if you're thinking that deep frying tortillas is awfully American for Chinese food, you're onto something.

THE REASON

The main gustatory difference between a spring roll and its egg cousin is that spring rolls have thin, often translucent flour wrappers and usually aren't fried, while egg rolls have thicker, deep-fried wrappings. Also, spring rolls in America are often filled with carrots and bamboo, while egg rolls are more likely to be filled with meat and bean shoots. Oh, and one other difference: Spring rolls are Chinese; egg rolls probably aren't.
In fact, Chinese cuisine in America is so vastly different from Chinese cuisine in China that many American Chinese restaurants advertise, beneath their English names, the words "Westernized Food" in Chinese.

In the 19th century, the primary audience for Chinese food was railroad workers, a group of people not widely known for their sophisticated palates. Chinese restaurateurs sought to accommodate both Chinese immigrants working the rails and their white coworkers—and in doing so created "fusion cuisine" long before it was hip. While some argue that egg rolls existed in China prior to their appearance in America, many food scholars believe that the egg roll is an American original. Besides the legendary roll, there are many staples of American Chinese food you'll rarely if ever see in China: fried rice, crab Rangoon, chow mein, sweet and sour pork, and General Tso's chicken. Also, fortune cookies (see sidebar). What do all these meals have in common? Frying, which is a staple of American Chinese food but somewhat less important in authentic Chinese cuisine.

As for the spring roll, though, around the late 1980s, Americans began to turn against the very Chinese food they'd helped to invent. No longer could we afford to eat deep-fried, high-sodium foods slathered in MSG. And so more authentic Chinese restaurants started popping up, and with them came the reemergence of the light and healthy spring roll. American Chinese cuisine still dominates the market in small towns, but the number of authentic restaurants grows every year.

HOW THE FORTUNE COOKIE CRUMBLES

Unlike the spring roll, the fortune cookie is not Chinese. And unlike the egg roll, fortune cookies aren't Chinese-American, either. They're actually Japanese-American. Makato Hagiwara, who designed (and for many years lived in) the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, invented the fortune cookie in the early 20th century. He intended the cookie to be a snack for people walking through the tea garden, but the concept became so popular that Chinese restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown stole the idea. Soon, the cookies were ubiquitous. Sadly, Hagiwara himself ended up suffering from bad fortune: In 1942, he and his family were evicted from the Tea Garden and sent, along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans, to live in internment camps.

Still confused? Find more answers to life's persistent questions in What's the Difference?, a mental_floss book edited by John Green.

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Museé d’Orsay, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Art
A Century's Worth of Important Art History Is Going Online
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Tulip fields in Holland, Claude Monet (1886)
Museé d’Orsay, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A century’s worth of art history research will soon be coming online. According to Artnet, the nonprofit Wildenstein Plattner Institute plans to digitize its extensive collection of art records.

The nonprofit WPI, founded in 2016, is a scholarly endeavor created by the billionaire art dealer Guy Wildenstein, who runs an international art-dealing empire that includes the Paris-based Wildenstein Institute. The Wildenstein Institute publishes catalogues raisonnés (comprehensive listings of every known artwork an artist has created), and the nonprofit arm, WPI is going to receive the rights to publish those catalogues. The research materials amassed by the Wildenstein family over the last 100 years will be digitized and made available online, the WPI announced this summer.

Though the institute hasn’t announced an exact timeline for this project, it plans to develop extensively researched online catalogues raisonnés for Impressionist artists like Claude Monet and Edouard Manet within the next few years. They will be regularly updated as new scholarship becomes available.

The institute will also have research on individual artworks, stock books from art galleries, collections of artists’ letters, annotated sale catalogues, and other materials vital to art historians. According to Artnet, this includes materials that were previously unavailable to the public or thought to have been destroyed. A full list of the materials available within the archives is scheduled to go online by the end of 2018, allowing researchers to request certain items from WPI for study.

“We are committed to using the latest technology to reveal the scope and richness of these holdings for the first time,” the WPI’s executive director, Elizabeth Gorayeb, says in a press release [PDF].

[h/t Artnet]

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PEN America
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literature
New PEN Archive Offers 1500 Hours of Audio/Video of Your Favorite Authors Online
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PEN America

PEN America has a new digital archive, and it will give you access to hundreds of hours of interviews, panels, and debates with your favorite authors. The literary and human rights organization just posted approximately 1500 hours of audio and video from events online.

The conferences, readings, and other events date back to 1966. Among the collection's highlights are Haruki Murakami’s first-ever public speaking event, audio from Pablo Neruda’s first visit to the U.S. in 1966 (as part of an event with the iconic, dome-obsessed architect Buckminster Fuller, among others), audio from a 1986 reading with Mario Vargas Llosa and Salman Rushdie, and video interviews with Toni Morrison.

For example, here’s a video from a 1982 event on banned books that featured Morrison, Grace Paley, John Irving, Gay Talese, and more.

It’s the first time PEN America has been able to make its entire audio and video archive available to the public. Digitizing the recordings will also help the organization preserve its history, since many of the analog recordings were in danger of deteriorating over time.

"With the release of the PEN America Digital Archive, these essential voices have been brought back to life, brimming with personality, passion, opinion, and sometimes bombast,” PEN America’s executive director, Suzanne Nossel, said in a press release. “Hearing directly from these greats will offer information and inspiration to writers, scholars, and free expression advocates for generations to come."

You can search the archive by keywords or author names, or check out the curated featured collections, which right now include programming with Toni Morrison from the past 30 years and multimedia from PEN’s 1986 annual congress, headed by Norman Mailer.

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