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The Perfect Eggroll
Jill Selvaggio recalls her mother's lifelong search for a second perfect eggroll.
By Jill Selvaggio
My grandmother loved eggrolls. I mean really loved them.
My grandmother married during World War II, and while my grandfather was saving lives in Europe, she waited for him to return so they could start their lives together.
During that time, my grandmother had an eggroll from some long-forgotten restaurant and to hear her tell it, it was The. Best. Eggroll. Ever.
No one in my family doubted her. We tried desperately to find her an eggroll equal to that first one.
No one tried harder than my mother. It couldn't have been easy to try to replace what had become the gold standard of all things wrapped in a golden, crispy shell. But my mother tried. There were countless attempts. Each one was always met with my grandmother responding "almost" or "not quite" or "I'd give this a C minus."
I don't know if it was ever important to my mother to finally top that one wartime eggroll or if it had become some shared connection between the two of them over the years. Either way, my mother was committed to the hunt and I enjoyed being a part of that search. It was important to my mother that she please my grandmother's taste buds. My mother had an immense desire to see her own mother happy, to bring a loved one joy. I know my grandmother loved those times. It was a connection with her daughter, granddaughter and, eventually, even her great-granddaughter. A shared experience for all of us and wonderful memories built around the perfect parcel of food.
My grandmother is gone now and she never did find another perfect eggroll, but the specter of that eggroll lives on. At her funeral, I thought of her being with her God and the loved ones who had passed before her. I thought of eggrolls; plates of those perfect eggrolls that would finally be hers. My mother and I still talk about the eggroll search, and in that discussion we say everything about my grandmother without saying much at all. We just need to say one word, "eggroll," and we've captured all the love and emotion that we feel. There could never be another word that would say as much.
That "eggroll" is perfect.
With a Perspective, I'm Jill Selvaggio.
Jill Selvaggio is a mother and manager of the superior court. She prefers her eggrolls with hot mustard and a beer.