Breakfast with the Bar Jester (Part 2)By Jason Peters for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
Rock Island, IL
In a former treatise, O Theophilus, I spoke ill of breakfast, which many people—not a few of them nutritional “experts”—wrongly regard as the most important meal of the day. I also made plain my own correct opinion on the matter at hand, viz., that two cups of dark-roast coffee are all a man needs each day to get him to the evening meal.
(O coffee! And O thou caffeine! What a good and pleasant addiction!)
Allowances were made—and the demands of charity thereby answered—for persons of peculiar constitutions, but the thrust of the piece was that breakfast–even the breakfast of champions–is for sissies.
However, I did add that breakfast “is a fine thing if you know what you’re doing, even though it is wholly unnecessary,” and I promised the reader that in a subsequent essay I would make his “arse on the matins satins stir with religious fervor”—all “thanks to the Bar Jester, his statins, and his culinary charity.”
(One ought not to make such promises, but …) Get your eggs ready, ladies!
Ah, the egg. The chicken egg. Perfectly designed for moving smoothly through a narrow corridor and onto a man’s plate. Is there anything like it in structure, function, flavor, color, or texture? There isn’t. Not unless it’s the hop.
Mind you, the egg doesn’t stand alone. It flourishes best with butter and salt and … well, let’s get on with it.
You want farm fresh eggs. You want eggs that come from chickens free to run and peck and screw other chickens. If you have never done a side-by-side taste test with, on the one hand, those nasty yellow-yolked store-bought eggs that besmirch the supermarkets and, on the other hand, the noble orange-yolked farm-fresh eggs from farmer Jim up yonder, do one. Do a taste test tomorrow. From the cracking of the shell to the look of the egg to the taste thereof you will notice differences like unto day and night, truth and error, Lonnie and Sparky Anderson. Farmer Jim’s egg, which have a brown or a green shell, will be to your tongue what the AV is to your ears. The white-shelled egg from the Try ‘n Save will offend you like the NIV.
Now there are many ways to prepare eggs: you can scramble them; you can whip them into an omelet; you can baste them; you can prepare them “over easy.” An unscrambled egg with a yolk broken or cooked hard is an abomination, like a shapely girl in a loose sweater and baggy pants. A hard-boiled egg is another matter altogether, and although it may be permitted on certain rare occasions it is not recommended for breakfast for the simple reason that it hasn’t observed the rule of “not too much,” where “not too much” means: not too much time on the heat. Or, to speak plainly, a hard-boiled egg has been over-cooked.
(Nothing should ever be over-cooked, and everything except chicken, turkey, and pork should be piously undercooked.)
Another thing: whereas evening cooking requires music, morning cooking requires silence. Don’t disturb your thoughts with radio or television or music or anything—except on Saturdays when “Car Talk” is on. We are talking about morning, my friend. Morning. Preserve and respect the morning silence that so perfectly complements the morning darkness. Tonight you can crank up Horsby when you’re making your carbonara (which, let me tell you, is awesome, mainly because it, too, requires farmer Jim’s eggs) and sipping your Woodford Reserve, but for now let the kitchen be still. Let the day unfold in your imagination like a cracked farm-fresh egg.
Okay. As for scrambled eggs: some people will tell you to add a little milk to them. Big mistake. You want eggs? Eat eggs, not eggs-plus-milk.
Whip the eggs in whatever’s at hand—a recently-used but rinsed-out coffee mug will do just fine—with nothing more than a fork. Butter your favorite breakfast pan over medium heat, add the eggs, scramble them, and take them out while they’re still good and runny. This is key. Fluffy scrambled eggs are ruined scrambled eggs. Dark and runny and orange is what you’re after.
Salt to taste and eat them with gratitude and buttered toast. Sausage patties are also a nice touch—and a pound of bacon a nicer one.
If you would increase your gratitude, mix the scrambled eggs with a serving of well-buttered and well-salted grits. Properly undercooked scrambled eggs mixed with grits prove the existence of God as much as mini-skirts and tank-tops do. You can even crumble a little bacon—Oh, bacon! Thou most perfectest of meats!—into the mix. Into the mix of grits and eggs, I mean. It won’t go particularly well with mini-skirts and tank-tops—at least not in the long run.
And at what time of the morning in particular is this concoction best consumed? All I can say is it makes a great supper on Sunday nights, especially in the winter when the kids have been out sledding and you (not caring whether Belichick can silence Ryan) have been reading fireside all afternoon.
As for the over-easy egg: again, butter the pan on medium heat. Crack your eggs and leave them be. Don’t flip until you can see the whites around their eyes. But when you can, carefully flip the eggs and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Give the eggs about one Pater Noster, maybe less, and remove them from the pan. Let them sit atop a pile of heavily buttered hash browns or American fries or maybe squarely on a piece of buttered toast or a buttered English muffin. Rupture the yolk and let the orange loveliness spill all over the place. Eat with gratitude &c.
You will notice that nowhere is margarine or spray or some other devilish unbuttery substitute permitted in the cooking. The reason: we were made to eat food, not chemical imitations thereof.
And as for the omelet: there is any number of ways to ruin this great thing, chief among them cramming in too many ingredients. The trick is to minimize the flavors. You don’t want your omelet tasting like a taco, or like salsa and chips. To satisfy your craving for tacos or salsa and chips there are tacos and salsa and chips aplenty. A good omelet will have no more than four flavors in addition to the eggs and the butter they’re cooked in.
So: lay by your preferred ingredients and scramble some eggs, as per the instructions above (eschewing milk like the very works of the devil himself). Into a buttered pan, no more than six inches in base diameter, add (for the perfect omelet) cubed ham. Toss it a bit and then add the eggs. Then add some shredded cheddar cheese. And then into the pan carefully place about a dozen capers. Place them artfully. And be sure they’re spaced such that you’ll get a couple in each bite.
Once the egg has cooked (you might have to swirl it about a bit), flip half the omelet over onto the other half so that you’ve got a half circle. Grab the pan by the handle. Move the pan away from and toward you until the whole creation moves as one living being in the pan. And then flip it. Flip it by … well, teach yourself the motion that makes this possible. A little imagination and you’ll have it.
The caper! Who would have thought it belonged in an omelet? But, O Theophilus, it does. It does.
Add salt and pepper and eat with gratitude, &c.
For the nonce I leave aside such egg-greats as Eggs Benedict, which we’ll consider when my Saw Bones increases my statin dosage from six to ten truckloads per day.
But for now there you have it.
We have departed somewhat from the usual Jester formula. There is nothing in the way of aural stimulation, and there are few promissory gestures along the lines of country matters, as the Lord Hamlet called them. That is because we have been treating of breakfast, which is a lesser thing in the culinary scheme and which, as my former treatise demonstrated, is not by any means the breaking of a fast.
And that, really, is the point, I’m afraid. A really good feast is always made better by a penitential season of fasting. Sleep is no such season.
Sleep is … well that, O Theophilus, is matter for another desperate Tuesday night. The one thing we do know about it is that there will be sleep enough in the grave.