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Volume 16, Issue 5: Flotsam

Scrambling Eggs

Nathan Wilson

My second love is riding my hip. But I am male. So, it might be more accurate to say she's riding my side. We're making eggs. I'm making eggs. She is trying to say "eggs."

It is strange falling in love with a one-year-old. Such love ultimately causes moments like this. We are talking, she and I, about the things before us.
"Hot," I say, gesturing toward the pan. She responds by smiling and making the noise of a snake. I reply with the sound of a puppy. She is quick, this one. She rolls her lip up into her nose and snorts in her best piggy style, more impressionist than Dutch master. She does not wait for a reply, but follows the pig up with the sound of no animal in particular. It is the noise of a bouncing tongue. My own tongue bounces, and she laughs. We are on the same page. The pan is hot. We're making eggs.
This girl of mine knows many things. She knows she has eyelashes, and what they are for. She knows which pot on the kitchen shelf she is allowed to play with. She knows her brother does not enjoy her presence when he's working with blocks. She currently believes that where there is no line of sight, there is no law. But that paradigm is crumbling.
Today she enounters a philosophical dialogue that has been going on for decades. A dialogue that I explain but that she will not fully comprehend for at least another year.
"Eggs aren't any good," I tell her. "They taste like eggs." I can tell she's listening. I'm whisking in a measuring cup.
"Someday, someone will tell you that eggs from the store are nowhere near as good as farm fresh. Don't believe a word of it. Farm fresh eggs are much worse. They taste more like eggs. Store-bought are nearly flavorless and are therefore much more suitable for the true purpose of eggs."
"What are you telling her?" My wife is in the other room. I don't answer. I don't have to. There's no line of sight.
"Eggs function as a base, a container, a means of communicating cheese. If it tastes like an egg after a scramble, then you've failed."
"Are you ignoring me?"
"Eggs allow us to eat cheese in yellow spongey lumps while hot. They also give us an excuse to put salsa on cheese—something socially unacceptable when cheese is eaten unmediated."
"Are you ignoring me?"
"No. She's learning about eggs. We'll be done soon." The pan is coated with teflonor whatever that nonstick stuff is. We could skip the butter if we didn't care about the state of our souls. It melts too quickly in the pan, and I turn the knob from eight to six and most of a half.
No mother that I have ever encountered would allow her child to fry up some cheese in a skillet and call it a meal. So the great compromise was made. Somewhere back there, someone, whom I would enjoy meeting, discovered that if the cheese contains an equal or nearly equal part egg, then the meal is legitimized. The egg serves as a sort of chaperone. The sort of chaperone that is in on the gag and doesn't do much actual chaperoning. Mother doesn't worry. Susie's not just with cheese, she's with egg too. My daughter won't need any sort of chaperone because she won't date cheese.
"Will you?" I ask her. The question's rhetorical.
"Will she what?"
"Need a security egg facade. No cheese to justify."
She doesn't respond.
"Are you ignoring me?" I ask. She is.
"We now come to an important decision," I tell my daughter. "What sort of crumb do you prefer in your eggs?"
"Crumb?" my wife asks. She's never been good at ignoring.
"Crumb," I repeat. "Like the crumb in a baguette. For the uncouth, what size lumps do you prefer in your eggs? This determines how we apply the cheese."
"Do big," my wife says. "She can eat big chunks by herself. Don't put much cheese in mine."
I look at the butter slick in the pan. The pan's off heat right now, waiting for the cheese decision. I look at the raw eggs all whisked to perfection, and at the very large pile of cheddar waiting on the paper towel.
"If we add the cheese to the eggs raw," I whisper to my daughter, "then we loose a lot of crumb, making it almost grainy. If we add cheese to eggs already scrambled then our cheese is limited. It becomes stringy. Noticeable to your mom."
She makes the piggy noise. Lots of lip and nose breathing. Her hair is in her eyes.
"Right," I say. Two thirds of the cheese goes in the raw egg. Spatula action is limited to preserve what crumb we can. I hand my daughter a small fistfull of cheese to pass the time. The bicep supporting her is trying to complain. I call it a coward, but still turn the heat up.
The eggs are firming. I dump the remaining cheese on. My daughter throws a half-sucked fistful in as well.
"Thank you," I say.
"Thank you," she says. I wonder how she spells it.
We both watch my spatula work. It is as I expected. My crumb is recovering. Small egg fragments bound together by the newly melting cheese. We wait for the appropriate amount of evaporation to provide a dry egg effect, and then serve ourselves. And mother. With innocent faces.

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