August 9, 2008

The hard-boiled egg (part 1)

I've long held the belief that a good writer is one who is able to reaffirm what I already know: the existence of an undeniable connection between food and words. Preparing, serving, sharing and eating food...translating these routine actions into words that contribute to a significant story rather than bore us with their details – this, I take to be a testament of good writing. To me, a novel is not a novel without food. And so when I come across a passage that leaves me breathless with its ability to take a simple action like eating and make it into something glorious, it reminds me once again why certain stories are worth reading.

Take this passage from Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin:

"Is there a cheese sandwich left?
She rummages in the paper bag. No, she says, but there's a hard-boiled egg. She's never been this happy before. Everything is fresh again, still to be enacted.
Just what the doctor ordered, he says. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou. He rolls the egg between his palms, cracking the shell, then peeling it away. She watches his mouth, the jaw, the teeth.
Beside me singing in the public park, she says. Here's the salt for it.
Thanks. You remembered everything."

This not only made me want to try a new method of peeling hard-boiled eggs, it reminded me that prose can be so good that I can read it more than once and remain inspired by its message.

And few words of flirtation, I think, are more charming than these: "Just what the doctor ordered. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou."