My friend Matt Dawes (husband to our Director of Ops, Zoe Dadian, and chef at Bull & Beggar) let me borrow this book by Elizabeth David from 1950 called A Book of Mediterranean Food. It's a wonderful book, but hard to get your hands on. There's a story in there about a time Gertrude Stein had Henri Matisse over for dinner to her apartment in Paris. Most people know Matisse for his joyful, happy paintings, but our family knows that Matisse was a curmudgeon. The story goes that Stein's cook, Hélène, had a fiery distaste for Matisse, who was always asking what was for dinner before accepting an invitation. So when Stein tells her, “Monsieur Matisse is staying for dinner this evening,” Hélène tells Stein, “In that case, I will not make an omelet but fry the eggs. It takes the same number of eggs and the same amount of butter but it shows less respect, and he will understand.”
Hélène sounds like a woman I want to be friends with.
One moral of that story is pretty obvious—that cooking a meal thoughtfully and carefully can be an expression of love and respect. I stop myself from going down this rabbit hole because lately I've been working too much and busy most evenings and the meals I do get around to preparing for myself and my family do not exactly scream, "Can't you see how tenderly and lovingly your mother prepared this meal for you!?" Where am I going with this? I don't really know.
We were talking about eggs. I like eggs for a lot of reasons. They're an inexpensive, accessible luxury. They're really freaking weird, conceptually, if you think too hard about them, and I like that. They're nutritious and they taste good. And, depending on how you prepare them, they can say one thing or they can say something totally opposite. You hear "lobster" and you think "luxury" (unless you're anti-lobster, then you might think "bottom-feeder" or "allergen"). But you hear "eggs" and depending on who you are, you think one of a million things. Hockey puck eggs from a grocery store hot bar? A tenderly scrambled egg with fines herbes? Scrambled eggs with smiley face ketchup? Souffles, chawanmushi, oeufs en cocotte?
One time I was on a first date with a guy I thought was way cooler than I was and I ate a huge piece of uni sushi with a raw quail egg on it and just couldn't swallow it, so I had to run to the bathroom and spit it out. Another time I sat alone at the bar at Frenchette, my first real meal without my children, and cried softly into a plate of brouillade with caviar. I don't know why. One time in our little house in Madison County where Alex and I raised chickens, I was baking a cake and cracked two eggs so rotten that whisps of toxic green smoke rose out from the shells. Most times, I eat my toddlers' cold, rubbery eggs with two fingers as I shepherd them out the door.
All that said, I like my eggs fried and basted in super hot butter, with too much Maldon salt. How do you like yours?