A Word on Food™

Egg Sandwiches

Cracking Wise
Cracking Wise

When I was about 8 years old I made friends with the three brothers who lived with their mom and dad in a neatly kept home across the creek from us. Back at our house I was the single male between two girls. The much needed boyish shenanigans were calling me. And Lord those boys supplied shenanigans in spades! … Their parents worked more than full time jobs. The boys were often left to their own devices when it came to many things…. And that also included after school meals. I usually had a bowl of cereal at our house when the school day ended … and I was content with that habit. That was until one winter afternoon when I went across the then frozen creek to visit my pals in their basement kitchen and watched them (casually as you please!) frying up egg sandwiches. No adult was there to stop them. Party! The smell of the hot butter, toasted bread and rich eggs caressed my young palate with a seductive power. Goodbye after school cornflakes! Goodbye sugar smacks!

The years passed … as years do. When I was 19 I hitchhiked to Colorado and quickly ran out of money. I got a job working spraying concrete in Kansas pit silo after a chance meeting with a entrepreneurial type in a Sambo’s restaurant in the town of Greeley. He drove the two of us East the next morning in his concrete truck. We passed the time listening to country music and some gospel on his truck’s radio. It was slow going due to the heavy weight of that big, noisy rig. After eight punishing, butt bruising hours he got me checked into a bare bones hotel room in Garden City.

Egg Sandwich
Egg Sandwich

When I got to the work site the next morning I met a group of Mexican laborers that would teach me. So it was them and me. I spoke no Spanish. The work was crushingly hot and dusty. One of the few moments of relief, which provided an almost hallucinatory happiness in the blindingly blue Western Kansas sky, were the chorizo and scrambled egg stuffed tortilla sandwiches they graciously shared with me. Eating them silently with those kind Mexican people took away the dull ache in my concrete spraying … hose shaken limbs.

My career in Kansas lasted about as long as most of my jobs back then. Which is to say… not long at all. Soon after I landed a stint as a hot tar roofer … Clearly I had a penchant for finding truly awful work … I was fired one afternoon for celebrating a work stopping thundershower. Then I started my cooking life in a diner. I began as a breakfast cook. I made pancakes, French toast, omelets, eggs over, eggs up, scrambled eggs and, of course, plenty of egg sandwiches.

The owner of the diner advised me to break the yolk to go in the egg sandwich just at the last moment so that the egg’s yolk set ever so slightly. If you didn’t break it a little the yolk could run out of the bread which the customer’s didn’t like. And if you cooked it any more the yolk was dry and tasteless … which they certainly liked even less…

The discovery of the Egg McMuffin was still a decade away back then. I don’t think they are so touchy about the nature of the yolk.


I’m Norman Van Aken and that’s…. My Word on Food

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