A Word on Food™ Radio Show

The Egg


The summer I became a golf caddie was one filled with suddenly unfamiliar routines and the deep lows and soaring highs of messy adolescence. I was 14 years of age and not skipping smoothly along the surface of life’s waters. My childhood pals, the Harris boys seemed to suffer no similar quandaries … so …. as is so often the case of adolescent logic I was infinitely attracted to them.

In our family I was the boy child wedged between two sisters and … understanding what it meant to be male was not a commodity I could garner from them. The male ‘egg’ as it were was mine own … to crack. When the Harris boys asked me if I wanted to join them caddying when school let out that summer in my second year of being a teenager I was alternately thrilled… and nervous. It would be my first job. I didn’t know the ins and outs. When I showed up at their home in the pre-dawn hours that first morning I saw them pile into the oldest brothers beat up car with sack lunches they’d brought along. I was without that plan. The youngest of the boys, Wade, who was my age…and my best friend… told me he’d share but that I needed to learn to pack some food or I’d “be wasted from carrying two heavy golf bags by 10 a.m.!” When I asked him what was in the paper bags he smiled dreamily and said, ‘we make egg salad sandwiches’.

I wolfed my half down just before heading to the first tee at ‘Twin Orchards Country Club’ that summer. It saved me I’m sure. And it taught me a valuable lesson about laying down a foundation before working. But the words that spiraled back to my ears as Mr. Malkin took the first “Mulligan” of a long morning were those of Wade saying “we make egg salad”. It had not occurred to me that the boys could make their own lunches. Power and control concepts flashed in my teenage mind!

Time spooled forward and it wasn’t long before the first job I got as a cook was as a breakfast one. And the egg and I became intimately intertwined.

In recent years we have seen the ascent of the ‘slow cooked egg’. Even if you have not heard it by that term or another … ‘sous vide’ there is a strong likelihood you have had it. Through the precision of cooking instruments like the immersion circulator an egg can be brought to an incredibly specific internal temperature where the egg yolk is as sensuous as God intended.

The egg is one of cuisine’s most important integers. It is both meal and agent. It fills the palate and taste buds with a kind of primal satisfaction that is both haunting and familiar. As an ingredient it has transformative powers beyond other basics like flour, milk, or any member of the vegetable kingdom! It is the beginning of life, but it is also a partner to a cook as intimate and needed as the knife … or the garden. Nora Ephron said, “When I fall in love it always begins with potatoes”. For me it would be eggs. When I finally mastered some dishes as a cook I came back to the shared home I had with some pals and I made them omelets for dinner. My stock soared!

Next time around…it will be a slow cooked egg.

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

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