Let me first say that I love to cook.
However, there are times when I don’t want to cook. There are times when I can’t think of anything to eat that will taste good. There are times when I feel exhausted after a full day of work and school and can’t face the kitchen. There are times when I haven’t given myself enough time to make a healthy and satisfying meal. There are times, like when returning from vacation or a visit to see family, when the refrigerator is almost empty. There are times when I am sick that making a meal seems almost impossible. There are times of grief or worry when food doesn’t seem like it will soothe my empty and knotted stomach. It’s in all of those times and more, that a pan of scrambled eggs does the trick.
I have eaten scrambled eggs with a boyfriend on the brink of a breakup, but we needed a timeout from a long emotional discussion to get sustenance. I have eaten scrambled eggs in the middle of the night, coming home after a late concert, music and crowd noise still rumbling in my ears. I have eaten scrambled eggs over a camp stove, my dear college friend working her magic in the early morning while we held a long overdue friend reunion in Savannah, Georgia. I have made scrambled eggs with curry in an effort to use up pantry ingredients and to excite my palate. I can remember cracking open eggs and beating them with a whisk at the age of 9 to surprise my mother in bed for her birthday. Scrambled eggs have been my first and last meals in most of my homes, easy to prepare and with few dishes or utensils to wash when everything was packed for a move.
There’s a simple beauty to scrambled eggs that I love. While making an omelet requires skill and a practiced flip of the wrist (read Julia Child’s memoir or watch her old cooking shows, she refers to endless practice), scrambled eggs need very little expertise.
Place your skillet or pan on the burner. Turn the heat to medium. Use your favorite method to avoid a sticky mess. I will use a splash of olive oil, or coconut oil, or a small bit of butter. Break open some eggs directly into the pan to save on dishes. Mix them up and break the yolks with whatever utensil you happen to have on hand. I like mixing in a little bit of milk and grinding in lots of black pepper. Hardly ever do I add salt. Scrambled eggs can become more with the addition of some vegetables or even crumbled up leftovers. My favorite, though, is still straight up scrambled eggs. Leave the eggs alone for a just a bit. They will start to cook and gain their scrambled shape. Use your spoon or spatula to stir and break up the eggs. Slowly run your spoon through the pan. Just when you think the eggs are not quite ready, turn off the burner. Let the pan of eggs set over the last bit of heat. Remove the pan from the burner. Everyone has their preference for how they like their scrambled eggs, but the magic of scrambled eggs is that they all taste wonderful. Scoop into a bowl or a plate and dig in to the warm haven.
Scrambled eggs are the perfect food for those inept or afraid of the kitchen, and yet, they are ideal for gourmands and foodies. They are wonderful as a celebratory dish, a comfort food, the food of deep feeling, or the careless afterthought in a long day.
Scrambled eggs are great when nothing else tastes good. Scrambled eggs are superb when you want minimal effort and maximum benefit. Scrambled eggs are down home food, and yet, when paired with a glass of wine possess a simple sophistication. I am fully convinced that the eggs in Dr. Suess’s classic Green Eggs and Ham were scrambled.
“And I would eat them in a boat!
And I would eat them with a goat.
And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good so good you see!”
—Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess (1960)
In one of my favorite movies, Last Night (2008), there is a beautiful scene of a young married couple who went to bed angry in a fight. They wake up in hunger and heartbreak to make scrambled eggs together. After eating eggs (made in an incongruous saucepan), they go to bed happier and no longer in discord. The spoiled Lady Mary of Downton Abbey, while she needs a lady’s maid to dress her and ahem put a necklace around her neck, is able to whip together a pan of scrambled eggs and pour glasses of wine, in a momentous scene in season four, episode six. She admits, “I can scramble eggs. That’s about it.”
A few days ago, when I got the call in the middle of the night from my older sister that my dad had died, I cried and went straight to the kitchen. A skillet of scrambled eggs cooked in my bewilderment and grief, with my salty tears seasoning the batch, was the first thing I had been able to eat in a couple of days. It brought me back to all the other times I have prepared scrambled eggs and it made me think of my dad. No master in the kitchen, his repertoire was small: blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies (all from baking mixes), but he made a pretty decent pan of scrambled eggs.
Scrambled eggs are my go-to. A few days ago, they provided a routine and sustenance in the middle of the night. They reminded me of my dad, of love and life. Last night, I scrambled up another batch, poured a glass of wine, and wandered out to the patio. In that moment, enjoying the light of a spring evening, I wasn’t sad. That dinner was about life, and all the light and love that falls into it.