Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Eggs - Meaning and Method

My mother is a collector of Rabbits. Mother of five. Mrs. Moody, family friend and professor of English theory and other long and interesting explanations who lived up the street from my childhood home, collects Owls.

I collect Birds. Song birds, the ones that are wild, the ones that fly, have rather slender wings, migrate and have that non-predatory esprit de vivre that domesticated ones don't have - those that pipe up without provocation and live through a certain stylism, seeming long and thin because they fly so fast we only see them streak by.

Up until a few years ago I thought it was because I was fascinated with the idea of migration, maybe running away but now that I have come to realize who I am, returning, visiting a place again and again but all the same covering vast spaces across the globe. Since the beginning I've been on the move, really.

I go to that staid place home again and again. Perhaps this act of cyclic returning gives my collection more meaning. I derive pleasure from this migration symbolized in the painterly aspect of certain small work of art, the hand in the multitude of little statues, old prints and representations of these kinds of birds making a certain kind of sense in my mind. Making sense as I choose them one by one.

Maybe it's what birds produce. The way they can expel a life project and separate it from themselves, hover over it with devotion, distinct, able to leave it be for a moment and then return, tend to it, incubate it with their own heat, and eventually, with enough devotion, see it through to becoming something on it's own.

My father poached me an egg for me the last time I saw him well. He knew it was what I needed. I had gone home to see him searching some advice, the kind I had always expected to receive from him. I was going through one of those rough spots that inevitably show up during our late 20s, almost staged as I presented it to him, strange because we had already developed an important adult respect between us, and yet at this time I needed his parent/kid advice for this one thing.

There I was, addressing him adult to adult with a real kid's life problem and there he was, comfortable oscillating within that strange mix, in his wisdom, just the man he was but at the same time everything I expected him to be - I'd laid the situation out for him to consider and was wondering what was coming next.

He cleared his throat, and said: "Well, Sugar, I think right now is a good time for me to poach you an egg." For some reason, and I guess for reasons that John Sellers the ad man knew, like the ingenious campaigns that constructed the logic of the transmission of his ideas of life, family, and the philosophy of the world in his mind - that which made us follow him reverently - he knew that all I needed, in my blurred hour of young adult need, shadowed in the passion of my childhood, brought to light in the angst of events that were making me older, sheltered in the simplicity of his wisdom, was a poached egg.

How could he know? That was his genius. Oh how a poached egg prepared by my father made me feel whole again that day, even as I faced the fact that no one had the answer to all of life's problems. And how he quietly stood ground, knowing that one day maybe I would take the whole and small into consideration.

Every time I poach one now, I still think of him, with fondness and devotion.

How to poach an egg

Fresh eggs are paramount to a good poached egg. If the egg is not absolutely fresh, the white spreads out all over the place in a filmy mess. A fresh egg will keep its form and the white will remain firm and cradle the yolk just right. Bring your eggs to room temp (this will not kill you, I promise - it should take about a half an hour on the counter. You may even leave the egg out for longer, or less time. Just consider that if you are to serve poached eggs in the morning, pull them out before you put the coffee on). Put about 2 inches of water into a small saucepan and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, so it just barely quivers. Add a teaspoon or two of vinegar to the water (that would be about 1 tablespoon each litre or quart of water). Crack the eggs one at a time into a teacup, and transfer them with as little splashing as possible into the simmering water. Let the egg poach for about 3 minutes, cooking the white through while maintaining the yolk nice and fluid. Carefully scoop your poached egg out of the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to the plate. If you plan to reserve the eggs for service later, dunk them in cold water to stop the cooking.

Note, the Salade Lyonnaise features poached eggs, bacon, and croutons on top. I make a reasonable version of this salad at home, because one egg, some smoked bacon and a few garlic croutons is enough. Sometimes if you order a Salade Lyonnaise at one of the restaurants here they bring out what appears to be an entire salad bowl sized vessel brimming with meat, several eggs, and a mountain of croutons and place it before you! I once made the mistake of choosing a Salade Lyonnaise as the appetizer in a menu (when you choose an appetizer, main dish, and dessert for a fixed price, very common here in France). I'll never do that again!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy - what a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!

8:26 PM, June 16, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Pretty plate and a wonderful story :)

11:20 PM, June 16, 2006  
Blogger Jen said...

what a nice recollection of the past...it's nice to revisit memories like these especially with food.

4:42 PM, June 20, 2006  
Anonymous Briar said...

Tears here - as you tell such a beautiful story!
My mother's answer to almost any problem is 'a nice piece of chocolate cake', but in my case, as she knows I don't have a sweet tooth, it's a poached egg on toast. And there is nothing more comforting, is there?

8:56 AM, October 23, 2012  

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