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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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geography
This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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History
3 Fascinating Items in Abraham Lincoln's Newly Released Archives

The Abraham Lincoln collection in the Library of Congress just got a major boost. The 16th president’s full papers are now entirely available online in full color for the first time, giving you high-resolution access to his letters, campaign materials, speeches, and more.

Lincoln’s papers took a roundabout route to the Library of Congress. After his assassination, Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln sent the president’s papers to one of the former congressman’s associates in Illinois, Judge David Davis, who worked with Lincoln’s presidential secretaries to organize them. Robert Todd Lincoln gave them to the Library of Congress in 1919, and in 1923, deeded them to the archive, mandating that they be sealed until 21 years after his death. They were opened in 1947.

This isn’t the first time some of these documents have been available online—scanned images of them first appeared on the Library of Congress’s American Memory website in 2001—but this 20,000-document collection provides higher-resolution versions, with new additions and features. Previous papers were uploaded as image scans from microfilm, meaning they weren’t particularly high quality. Now, researchers have better access to the information with scans from the original documents that you can zoom in on and actually read.

There are searchable transcriptions for about 10,000 hand-written documents in the collection, including those written in Lincoln’s hand, along with annotations that provide contextual explanations. Here are three items in the collection not to miss:

1. THE EARLIEST VERSION OF THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

Lincoln read this early version of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in July 1862, telling them he was going to propose freeing slaves held by Confederate rebels. Secretary of State William Seward convinced him that he should wait until there was a major Union victory to announce the proclamation.

2. A LETTER FROM MRS. LINCOLN

In the fall of 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote her husband during her month-long trip to New York and Boston about her dressmaker and confidant, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley, asking him for money to give to her to buy blankets for escaped slaves, then referred to as “contrabands.”

3. A DRAFT OF THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

This may be the only copy of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg address that was drafted before he delivered it. There are five known drafts of the speech, but three were written out for people who requested copies afterward. It’s unclear if one of the other copies was made before or after the speech, but this one was definitely drafted beforehand. It belonged to Nicolay Hay, Lincoln’s secretary, who also helped organize his papers after the president’s death. It differs a little from the speech we’re familiar with, so you should definitely read the transcript. (Click “show text” above the image on the Library of Congress page for the text and annotations.)

You can see all the documents here.

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