How to Make an Egg Sandwich

 

withdadandjulian

 

First of all, you need a gas range. If you don’t have a gas range, please go out and get one. Making an egg sandwich requires the immediacy of “heat there – heat gone” that only the flame can provide. If you have an electric stove, and you insist on using it, well, okay, you can make an egg sandwich on that, but it will not be as good.

I learned to make this sandwich as a child watching my father do it, and in my heart I carried with me that method, both observed and instructed, like a kind of religious ritual. Thirty-five years later my father offered to make me the sandwich, and I was pleased and excited. Once again, I was going to have an egg sandwich made at the hands of the master! Imagine my shock and surprise, my downright dismay, when he didn’t make it right. He mixed up the eggs in the pan on the heat, it was stunning. He even added pickle relish to his own sandwich.

To properly make an egg sandwich you need five items: eggs, salt, white bread, mayonnaise and butter. (No you cannot use margarine, spreads, olive oil or anything else. It has to be butter.) For years I made this sandwich with Miracle Whip, but it contains High Fructose Corn Syrup, so I’ve gone to using mayo, it’s better for you.

No doubt you’ve seen those insidious ads that suggest High Fructose Corn Syrup is “all natural” and “nutritionally the same as table sugar.” They’re like those cigarette ads from the fifties that proclaimed smoking was “Healthy!” “Good for you!” Recommended by Doctors!” High Fructose Corn Syrup is a sweetener in which the caloric content has been used up through processing, it provides no cellular fuel at all. It may be all natural, but it leaves all natural fatty deposits in your liver. No thanks. But I digress. We like Hellman’s for mayonnaise, as it is a bit tangier and more like Miracle Whip in taste.

Clearly, this is not an egg salad sandwich, and technically, it is not a fried egg sandwich. A fried egg sandwich would be something akin to the burger my stepfather used to order at the lunch counter of the Linkletter Hotel . . . three patties of beef, three slices of cheese stacked in a bun, with a sunny-side up egg on top. He ate this sandwich continental style with a knife and fork.

This might be described as a scrambled egg sandwich, but you cook the eggs more like frittata, you don’t scramble them in the pan, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you want to use cheap eggs, that’s your prerogative of course, but the extra expense of organic eggs from grain fed, free range hens pays off in taste. (Not to mention the kharmic boost that you get from not further contributing to the misery of hens being kept on an assembly line and fed diets that include (eek!) bits of other chickens. Cannibal chickens! The stuff of Wes Craven’s nightmares.

So take two or three beautiful eggs (your preference) and crack them into a bowl, glass measuring cup or clean coffee mug. Whisk them briskly with a pair of forks. Heat a small non-stick frying pan, and add a dollop of butter. Turn the heat on high. When the butter is melted and frothy, pour in the eggs. Be careful not to let the butter brown . . . if it does, you have to start all over with new butter.

While the eggs bubble happily in the pan, get out two slices of good white bread. (A note about Wonder Bread. I am not a Wonder Bread snob. I can roll up my slice of Wonder Bread into those neat little doughy balls with the best of them . . . but Wonder Bread won’t work well for this sandwich, it’s too spongy and the whole thing will just be a soggy mess. It needs to be white bread with a little bit of body.) Or you can use nutty multi-grain bread, or the like. Sourdough or rye are likely to crowd the delicate taste of the eggs, so they are not advised.

My husband, who is a wonderful man in nearly every respect, insists on freezing the loaves of bread that cross our threshold. If I’m making this sandwich with bread that’s been frozen, I toast the bread. (Thawed bread is not the same as soft bread, darling, no matter what you say.) In the best of possible worlds, use bread that you just brought home from the grocery store, bread that has never seen refrigeration of any kind.

Take your slices of bread, and spread upon them a reasonable amount of mayo. Don’t glop it on, just a little goes a long way. Some heathen pagan insensitive types have been known to put mustard (mustard!) on this sandwich. I say to them, why don’t you just have a mustard sandwich? Even a tiny bit of good Dijon mustard will make it taste like mustard. I shudder at the thought.

Have you been keeping an eye on the eggs? You need to be keeping an eye on the eggs. They should be getting tall and puffy in the undisturbed pan. Now, depending on the intended recipient of the egg sandwich, you flip it either sooner or later. My son, who is generally a good boy, likes his eggs browned slightly. What’s a mother to do? I can’t stand them this way, but that’s his preference and so I bite my tongue and make his sandwich with the eggs browned.

Sprinkle salt on the eggs like you were dancing to Afro-Cuban music while cooking. (In fact, it’s not a bad idea to listen to Afro-Cuban music while cooking.) Flip them over with a spatula. Cook for another minute or so, then slide the eggs (a golden fluffy patty of eggs) onto the waiting bread.

Place on a small plate and carry with you to your favorite armchair to consume while reading a paperback novel. Put the egg sandwich on a tray with a steaming cup of coffee and a tall glass of orange juice and carry upstairs to your husband who is feeling not quite himself. Wrap in a paper towel and carry for your son who has his arms full with his school bag and cello so he can eat his warm breakfast in the car on a dark and cold winter morning on the way to school.

Make this sandwich when you aren’t in the mood to make dinner. This sandwich is excellent for lunch while working on household projects. It’s great nourishment for your mother recovering from heart surgery. It is, in fact, perfect for mending broken hearts, not to mention a bonafide cure for hangovers and other ailments. An egg sandwich is just the thing to fix for your father when he is dying of cancer, even if it turns out after all these years that he doesn’t make it the same way. He will enjoy it anyway, maybe all the more so because it was something of his that you took and made your own.

 

This a reprise. I wrote this piece in March 2009, and I am sharing it here in loving memory of my Dad, Larry Paul Vonalt, January 10, 1937-December 26, 2005. Thinking about you on Father’s Day, Dad, and all days. (And I would like to add that since this was written Miracle Whip has stopped using high fructose corn syrup in their salad dressing.) 

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Clean Air to Breathe

Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you.  And if you’re in a crowd, you’ll always have some clean air to breath. – Julia Child

 

Today was Julia Child’s birthday, she would have been 100. (She made it to two-days-shy of 92, which surely should serve as an endorsement of French cookery. Or butter.)

In the late sixties, my mother used to watch The French Chef on television, and I must have watched right along with her.  Though Julia Child’s books were very popular, it was really the television show which made her an American icon. If you haven’t seen Julia Child cook, you must. (Click here.) If you have, you will be fondly remembering her enthusiasm and her warbling voice. “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

Dogs love it if you speak to them in a Julia Child voice. In fact, I have known more than one dog to sit raptly in front of the television listening to Julia de-bone and chop and stir.

My stepfather, who cooked enthusiastically for entertainment, embraced Child’s notion that “Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Among his many cooking books was a well-worn copy of  Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Only Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking had more spatters, spots and drips on its dog-eared pages. Now they both sit dog-eared and much-thumbed on my own shelves of cookbooks.

As a young woman I worked at the Children’s Museum Shop in Boston. I think (though my memory could be flawed) that Julia Child was on the Museum board. Whatever it was that brought her down to Congress Street, you always knew when she was in the building, as you could hear her laughing from a long way off. She was very tall (six-foot-two) and not slight– a commanding presence even when smiling. Maybe especially when smiling. In the decade after that she went on to have another cooking show on PBS television, though restaurants then were heading into that wasteland of nouvelle cuisine, which Julia herself described as a “fancy term for diet food.” She was not much for diet food, suggesting that you should “only eat it while waiting for the steak to cook.”

A few years before she died, Julia Child moved to a retirement community and gave her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Smith College, her alma mater. The television set for the kitchen, which was modeled on her own kitchen, was given to the Smithsonian. Both kitchens had been specially designed by her husband Paul, taking into account her unusual height. After her death, Smith College sold the house to a yuppie couple who’d never even heard of Julia Child, and the kitchen was ripped out and “updated.” All stainless no doubt.

It was horrifying really. How could someone never have heard of Julia Child? So I am glad, I suppose, that the popular book (and subsequent film) Julie and Julia did shine a light once more on the fearless and joyful Julia Child. I loved the parts of the film with Meryl Streep, though I never could shake the feeling that I was watching Meryl Streep impersonating Julia Child. The persona of Julie (the blogger who set out to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year) left me sort of cold. I’ll admit I was secretly pleased that Julia Child herself thought the woman “flimsy” and that the whole thing was done as a stunt, noting that Julie never wrote about how the dishes turned out or how she felt about the food.

It’s not that she took herself seriously, so much as she took her life’s work seriously. (I understand that she was greatly amused by Dan Aykroyd’s spoof of her on Saturday Night Live and used to enjoy showing it to people at parties.) She taught several generations of us to approach food with abandon, with the sought-after end results being a wonderful time and something delicious to eat, and in that order, I believe. She did say that you should never apologize for your failures, something I’ve found difficult to master. Her advice for conquering the kitchen was that “the only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

That, and “Every woman should have a blowtorch.”

Target number 77, Steps 5654

Breakfast: banana, half-cup of frozen greek yogurt. Lunch: three Lean Cuisine spring rolls (really, they’re pretty good), and later half a cup of trail mix (almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries) Dinner: Grilled pork chop with apricot-sriracha sauce, lime-cilantro rice, crookneck squash cooked ’till tender with Vidalia onions. (I think Julia would have approved.) Two small hand-crafted chocolates.

Half an hour hike in the woods, 1.2 miles, .2 of that at a run. (Baby steps, you know.) Made dinner, joyfully.