When people ask me where I’m from, I slightly roll my eyes and murmur “New Jersey.”
“Oh…..I’ve driven past there on the turnpike.”
End of conversation.
Living in this mixing bowl mecca of Washington DC, I have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the planet…..gorgeous places, rich with culture like Morocco. Panama. Nigeria. Kazakstan. So when I tell people where I am from, I never reveal the location with pride. I am proud of what Trenton has accomplished in the past but lately, with all of this selfish behavior and embarrassing actions from our Mayor and Governor. I am not proud to call Trenton…or New Jersey home.
TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES glows proudly over the Delaware River. The relic brings a smile to my face each time I see it because it reminds me of what I used to think about Trenton. I listen to my father reminisce about the “good ole times” he had back in the 70s….the factories he used to work in (which are now vacant and abandoned)…..the booming industrial and manufacturing years….when Trenton was a major manufacturing city. Today, you can’t go a few minutes on any highway, road and not see vacant and abandoned buildings and warehouses. There are hundreds and it definitely tugs at my heartstrings when it has been that way for decades.
Trenton toughened me up and opened my eyes. Together, we weathered extremely cold winters and humid, hot summers. You taught me to fully appreciate pork roll, freshly baked bagels and hoagies. You reminded me to keep my doors locked, at all times. You reminded me that although you can live on the same street as your best friend , you can still live in 2 different townships. You proved that delicatessens belong on every corner. You showed me that there is nothing cooler than going to Halo Farms (and this still excites me at the age of 30). You taught me to embrace the cultural differences of my neighbors. Although I lived in the North and its a Southern thing, you demonstrated that a simple hello can be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. You taught me how to appreciate rowhouses and basements. You showed me gorgeous, rolling hills and the gritty streets. You proved to me that nothing beats a Parkway Pizza. You proved that no matter how dangerous the neighborhood is, the gang bangers and troublemakers always take the time to say hello to the elders sitting on the porch. You showed me the best of times and the worst of times. You are beautiful…in your own unique way.
So today…when someone asks me where I’m from….I am going to smile…and I will proudly reply ” I am from Trenton, New Jersey.” My birthplace…the city that helped mold me into the woman I am today….the place that still holds a very special place in my heart, no matter what.
Its not secret that I love to travel….new cultures…new sights…new people….new food…nothing compares to the feeling I get when I travel to new places for the first time. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I rode the Metropolitana di Milano in Italy…especially when all of the signage is in Italian and no one really stops to help you. I had tears in my eyes when I stood in the middle of St. Peter’s Square. I was intrigued with the ruins of Tulum and the stories that our tourguide told us…even if they were only half truths, they were still so very interesting. Annoyance followed while being approached by sellers in Cancun. Feeling of contentment when eating real Italian gelato for the first time. Feeling small while standing in front of the Milan’s Duomo. Feeling complete while standing on the Golden Gate bridge.
As 2013 comes to an end and 2014 finally makes its debut…I’m setting my sights on seeing more of the world.
Travel is spending countless hours in an airport terminal. Travel is returning a smile to the stranger next to you. Travel is sharing stories with a new friend. Travel is flipping through language dictionaries. Travel is packing way too much…or far too little and hopefully learning from those mistakes. Travel is not knowing how to use a bidet. Its discovering that your favorite musician is someone else’s favorite musician half way across the world. Travel is getting lost. Its entering churches too captivating to not enter. Travel is trying extraordinary food for the first time. Travel is buying too many souvernirs. Travel is taking way too many pictures but, wishing you took more once you return home. Travel is riding public transportation and hoping to God that you get off on the right stop. Travel is riding the train and getting lost in the scenery outside of the window. It’s dancing in the street with complete strangers from around the world. Its connecting with these new friends on Facebook. Its the realization that there is much more to living than working and paying bills. Travel is a journey of self discovery.
I had the coolest best friend. I was 9…she was 10 and she was Filipino and gorgeous. All the boys wanted to date her. And all the girls wanted to be her friend. Especially after the day she punched a classmate with a cast on her arm. Talk about lucky!
She lived about 2 blocks from my house and her family welcomed me. There, I fell in love with everything Asian. I enter the house, removed my shoes immediately. The house always smelled of fresh steamed rice. And all of her siblings were nerdy (except for her, of course!). I remember one particular day when her mother offered my kimchi. Smelled like ass but, tasted like heaven. Me…I love anything well seasoned and pickled. Then, she began to fry lumpia. As soon as she was done cooking, I was first in line….had no idea what it was but, I was already hooked!! Bit into this crunchy roll and it completely rocked my world.
Unfortunately, her family moved across the country to California and I hear from her every 5 years. I think about her a lot…wonder what she’s up to….but, I can’t lie…I think I miss the lumpia move (I’m kidding!!). Recently, I decided to make lumpia based on a recipt I found on RasaMalaysia.com (http://rasamalaysia.com/lumpia-filipino-spring-rolls-recipe/). I made it for my parents…who never ate Filipino food before and it lasted 1 day in my home… Enjoy!
Recipe: Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino Spring Rolls filled with Pork)
Makes about 50 lumpia/spring rolls
1 package Lumpia wrappers (25 sheets); Chinese or Vietnamese spring roll wrappers meant for frying can be substituted.
2 pounds ground pork
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Using a serrated knife, cut the square lumpia wrappers in half so that you have two stacks of rectangular wrappers. Place a damp paper towel over the wrappers to keep them from drying out as you work.
Combine the pork, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, eggs, and black pepper in a large bowl. Using your hands, or a rubber spatula, mix the filling well so that the seasonings are evenly distributed.
Place one of the rectangular wrappers vertically on your work surface with the short edge facing you. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling on the wrapper about half an inch from the edge closest to you. Grasp the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up and over the filling, continuing to roll until 2 inches of wrapper remain.
Dip two fingers into a bowl of water, then moisten the last 2 inches of wrapper with your fingers. Finish rolling the lumpia, then rest it on its seam. Continue rolling with the rest of the filling and lumpia wrappers.
At this point, you can freeze your rolled lumpia if you wish by placing them in freezer bags and then into your freezer.
To cook the lumpia, fill a large frying pan with about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the lumpia into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes total (if frying frozen lumpia, it will take 1 to 2 minutes longer).
Place the fried lumpia on paper towels and serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce (bottled from the store is fine).
- You can also add finely minced raw shrimp to the pork mixture if you’d like. Also, instead of ground pork, you can use ground beef, or even ground turkey if you’re watching your girlish figure.
Pho is a godsend…a hydrating and filling meal after a crazy night of drinking and partying…steaming hot broth to unclog that runny nose when you have a cold….enough noodles and beef (or chicken) to practice your chopstick skills..if you haven’t experienced pho yet, you are uncool. There! I said it.
For those uncool people who do not know what Pho is…let me fill you in. Described as a Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup usually served with slivers of beef or chicken, and includes rice noodles, basil, onion, bean sprout and lime. The broth is generally made by simmering beef bones, ginger, onion, cinnamon, clove, blah, blah, blah …so fragrant and such intense flavor…let me tell you- it will change your life! Plus..eating pho feels so…so….right.
Came across the recipe…combining my 2 favorite foods…Pho and Grilled Steak. Hope you enjoy…off to Wegmans!