Friday, June 15, 2007

The Egg Ritual

It’s just an egg, right? Nothing special or unusual, right?

Yes, eggs are an everyday affair, found at every greasy spoon and haute cuisine brunch place in the country. Eggs don’t take much thought, they are the every day. Yet, there is so much you can do with them, from soufflé to lemon curd, from breakfast to lunch and dinner (and that post-booze meal at 3AM), boiled, scrambled, poached, fried, baked… the list goes on. In addition to their versatility, their ease, availability, high protein content, and frankly attractive architecture, I find myself attracted to their ritual. I have an egg ritual. To be more specific, I have a sunny-side up egg ritual.

I remember sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table when I was really little, maybe 6 or 7 years old, with the shiny eye of a sunny-side up egg staring up at me from the plate. I wasn’t crazy about eggs. They were just eggs… nothing mysterious, nothing special, nothing to covet… until my uncle sat down next to me and taught me how to respect and eat them properly. He made eggs a multi-step process, a game and a ritual to be adhered to and appreciated. I think it was one of my very first experiences of savoring food, of stopping to think about what I was eating and what made it special. Twenty-ahem years later, I have taken that lesson to, arguably, an extreme. I have held onto the ritual.

The Egg Ritual, slightly adapted to my 20-ahem year-old self.

• You get your sunny-side up eggs to your plate.
• You sprinkle salt all over them (the pepper is a recent, grown up addition of mine).
• You eat from the outside in.
• You see, the white is just the moat around the yolk castle. You have to get through it before reaching the prize at the end, the silky, glossy yolk center.
• You can eat all around the yolk, you can approach it, skirt it, but never poke it! Not until it's time.
• Once you have made your way to the yolk, once all you have left on your plate is that yellow hemisphere, once you have stared at and admired it for a good long while, once you have armed yourself with a piece of bread, go ahead…
nick the thin membrane holding the yolk in and let it soak up into the bread.
• Swirl the bread around till you get as much yolk as you can onto that very first piece.
• Get the soaked bread to your mouth without wasting any of the yolk on your lap, chin, or favorite shirt. Feel the yolk squish out of the bread, pay attention to its viscosity and its richness. Think about it, appreciate the every day.

My uncle now has another six year old of his own. I can only hope she starts to like eggs soon.

P.S. What’s really disconcerting about this story is that my uncle was way younger than I am right now when he taught me the egg ritual. He must have been, what? 23? 24? Crazy! Five bucks says he has no recollection of what I am talking about.


aimee said...

I'm quite the aficionado of saving the best 'til last and prolonging the expectancy of pleasure for as long as humanly possible, but I must say, my egg technique is quite the reverse. The yolk is the best bit, I don't disagree, but because I don't want to waste a drop, I prefer to dip my bread straight away so that the white can catch any overflow. I had a poached egg this morning and ate it this very way, with a little HP sauce on the side for dipping. Brilliant.

Eggs are so delicious, and a real comfort food for me. My Grandma's fried egg and chips, served with thick cut white bread and lots of butter will probably always be the one thing I crave when I'm feeling a little down.

Ps - I don't think I ever mentioned how well the egg jerking worked out for me? Really well! I'm a total convert to the ready in seconds omelette.

Jonathan said...

That is a great picture of an egg...very, uh, sensual. And it's never just an egg...I remember a GQ article saying no refrigerator is complete without an egg. And there may be nothing so simply delicious as bread and yolk. I'm craving your brussel sprouts, by the way.

Anna said...

Aimee - You have your own ritual! That's so cool. I guess eggs are rather ritualistic. Your comfort food sounds perfect. Do you ever make it for yourself? Or would it just not be the same as having someone care enough to make it for you?

I am so glad your omelettes are turning out! I decided to pause my egg jerking till I get a proper omelette pan - I got tired of picking off bits of omelette from the floor and walls.

Jonathan - Brussel sprouts will have to wait till next winter. It's too warm for them now. I am willing to entertain special requests, however, provided I am paid in wine. Bread and yolk! Truly so simple but so good. And difficult to screw up, for once.

Jonathan said...

I got plenty of good wines to try...just waiting for the right company (i.e. you). The Woo is waiting.

aimee said...

I never make chips for myself, they just wouldn't be up to Grandma's standards and I'd be highly dissapointed. Plus I don't have a deep fat frier.

And you're so right, as much as I think I'm craving my comfort food, what I'm probably craving is the warmth of Grandma Glasses (that's her name). Blimey, I've come over all emotional. Time for an egg I think.

JC said...

Eggs. Is there anything they can't do?

I only like eggs scrambled. For some reason the yolk freaks me out.

Anna said...

Scrambled eggs are good but they always make me think of hangover food. I don't know why. Eggs are a little creepy, I agree. Especially when you have to pull out that little embryo bit. *Shudder*. Makes me remember by Developmental Biology class in college. Vomit.