August 17, 2008

The hard-boiled egg (part 2)

The egg holds a special place in my heart. It is something I eat almost every day. Why? Because it's versatile. You can hard boil, soft boil, poach, fry or scramble it, but you can also separate the yolk and white to make custards and meringues. I've been known to make a few egg sandwiches in my day (see photo at right).

This particular creation is a veggie chick'n patty with a fried egg slapped inside a toasted English muffin. Pretty self-explanatory, but here are some tips:

*Use "extra crispy" English muffins.
*Break the yolk while frying it; it distributes the yolk across the egg white so that you won't get attacked by a thick bite of yolk in the middle of your sandwich. (Note: it also helps expand the size of the egg so it will come out the sides of the muffin, giving you the impression that you're having a sandwich fit for the gods.)
*Cheese!
*Substitute your favorite brand of veggie burger.

Meanwhile, others might like to prepare their eggs exactly the same way every day. Please accept the following literary evidence:
"He made his breakfast, which was as usual two slices of brown toast, a boiled egg and tea. He did not hear Eugene, and supposed he had gone out earlier. While he ate he remembered a feeling he had had in the back yard while he was holding the bird and thinking of the chiffon-hatted lady and the field of mustard and his parents..."
-Walking on Water, Alice Munro

It's a passage like this that reminds me why Alice Munro is such a master of short stories. She writes about people whose actions are ordinary, and whose stories touch us in spite of and because of this fact.

See how she ties the act of eating to the act of reminiscence amid a perfunctory moment at the breakfast table? The chiffon-hatted lady, the field of mustard...these things may not seem to directly relate to food, but the words "chiffon"' and "mustard" certainly do. Not to mention, the color of mustard leads one to think of the color of an egg yolk. The subtle ways in which the sentences refer to former thoughts in the character's mind without forcing these references–that's why I read stories. It's a whole new way of looking at the thinking process, as well as the human experience.

Perhaps we've all settled down to a normal breakfast (perhaps of tea and toast and eggs, too), and reflected upon memories while eating that breakfast. We relate to this man's reminiscence, though we may not have shared his specific memories, sharing instead the sensation of remembering something in the middle of a routine action. Instantly we are connected to that character.