In fact, I think he is one of the most easy going people I’ve ever met, except when it comes to eggs.
More specifically, how eggs are cooked.
How his eggs are cooked.
I should begin by telling you he takes his eggs basted. For some reason, basted eggs are one of the most difficult things for line cooks to get right. I should also tell you that I have never basted an egg for him in our entire 25 years together. I know where my talents lie and they are not with cooking eggs.
So I happily leave the basting to unsuspecting cooks who mostly get it wrong and end up facing my husband’s profound displeasure.
Once we were having breakfast with our family at a local golf course. It was a pleasant Sunday morning. Our all-smiles server arrived to take our orders. One by one we told her what we wanted. Scrambled. Fried. Over-easy. More scrambled.
The sunshine server girl turned to my other half with a big smile. “And you, sir?” she asked.
“I’ll have my eggs BASTED,” he told her, looking at her suspiciously. “Can your cook do BASTED?” Everyone in our family gave each other the “uh oh” look.
“Of course,” she told him with a big springtime smile and went off to order the eggs.
Things looked hopeful. “I got a feeling of confidence from her,” my husband said.
Twenty minutes later the eggs arrived … with hard yolks.
Back the eggs went. The sunshine girl’s smile went with them.
Ten minutes later, the eggs were too soft. Back they went again. By now, sunshine girl was drooping like a stressed out tulip.
The next time they came back, the eggs were grizzled, greasy and clearly burned. By this time, every family member was carefully studying his or her silverware, and folding and refolding napkins.
After a period of silence, my husband cleared his throat.
“I think your cook has an issue with my eggs,” he informed our now mournful server. “I think your cook is being passive aggressive towards my eggs.” At which point our entire table erupted in laughter and I inhaled my coffee to avoid spitting it out at the old folks at the next table. I risked a glance. My husband was frowning. My mother was mortified. My daughter was embarrassed. My step dad was trying to make a joke.
The Egg Beater
It’s interesting to note that one of the dictionary definitions for the word baste is “to thrash or beat violently.” It also doesn’t escape me how close the word basted comes to bastard, not that I’m suggesting anything here.
In the Chef Talk forum, chef Bob Ballantyne writes, “Perhaps the most misunderstood preparation of eggs is the Basted Egg. Requesting basted eggs is a little like being a tea drinker in the USA. If you are a tea drinker and request tea either with breakfast or after dinner, you know what I mean. The system is not designed to handle such requests.”
Fast Food Frenzy
I agree. It’s bad enough when my husband orders basted eggs in sit-down restaurants, but he also tries it on BC Ferries during the breakfast rush. For those of you who don’t know, BC Ferries is probably the world’s busiest ferry system. People drive and walk on in the hundreds and literally run to queue up for their food before the line grows too long. BC Ferries system is set up for speed and efficiency. Basting does not fall into either of those categories.
But my husband is not interested in speed and efficiency when it comes to his food. So of course he ordered basted eggs. The woman behind him rolled her eyes. I felt like I was about to get hives. By the time the eggs showed up 15 minutes later, he was alone in the line up, and I heard him declare, from the spot where he had been standing expectantly the whole time, “That is NOT basted.”
“Sir, this egg is basted.”
“I know basted. This is not basted. It’s poached.”
It was an egg stand-off. My husband won because the customer is always right.
Of Psychology and Eggology
My husband’s obsession with how his eggs are cooked is so deep seated, I decided there must be some buried psychological reason for this, or some symbolic clue. Sure enough, Carl Jung, who must have thought of everything to do with the mind, even thought about the mind on eggs.
“The egg is a germ of life with a lofty symbolical significance,” Jung wrote in Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. “It is not just a cosmogonic symbol — it is also a ‘philosophical one’. As the former it is the Orphic Egg, the world’s beginning; as the latter, the philosophical egg of the medieval natural philosophers, the vessel from which, at the end of the opus alchymicum, the homunculus emerges… the spiritual, inner, and complete man.”
Uh huh. Well. Ok then.
In fact, eggs are loaded with symbolism of births, beginnings, rebirth and immortality. In many cultures, they embody life’s essence — the soul is symbolized by the round, yellow yolk. So maybe, when the yolk is not perfectly cooked, my husband thinks it is a reflection on his soul? Or…maybe not.
The more I learned about eggs, the more I actually think that my husband constantly orders basted eggs because this is his quest for perfection, his odyssey — not just on a food level but on a spiritual level. A perfectly basted egg would mean, on some level, that all is well in the universe. As such, the perfectly basted egg is his Holy Grail.
I’m not even sure what he would do if he suddenly got the perfectly basted egg. I think it might actually be disappointing to him because it would end his lifelong quest.
And then he would have to pick on another food.
How To Cook a Perfectly Basted Egg (Apparently!)
A basted egg is a cross between a sunny-side-up fried egg and a poached egg. To prepare one to perfection, heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of non-stick spray or butter. Crack an egg into the pan and add your desired seasoning (e.g. salt and pepper). Let the egg cook only briefly before adding about 1 Tbsp. of water.
Cover the pan with a lid immediately and allow the egg to cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on how well done you like your egg. Remove from heat when the top of the yolk appears slightly white-ish. Remove the lid and you should have a perfectly basted egg.
“Egg on Her Face” Carolyn Coles @ Flickr. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Perfectly finished basted egg” from Cooking Up a Storm
“Basted with lid” from Home Ec 101