Most of my friends and all of my family know I’m not a great cook. I struggle in the kitchen. If you need something to burn, shrivel, fall, or explode, send it my way. I can make it happen.
I have a few go-tos that I have perfected. Eggs are at the top of the list. I make great eggs in three different styles. This is due to the efforts of some wonderful women in my life.
Grandma Lively, my mother’s mother, was a meticulous homemaker. She cooked from scratch, and frowned on people entering the domain of her kitchen. As a little girl, my fascination overcame my terror of being shooed out, and I’d sneak in to see the lines of Mason jars steaming with jam, loaves of bread puffing over the edges of loaf pans, or creamy custard pies ‘setting up’.
In the early days of my marriage, I lived with my grandparents while hubby made his way through Marine Corps boot camp. Grandma had relaxed her stringent kitchen rules. She also worried that I’d be in divorce court without cooking skills, and decided to teach me, poor student that I was. One of the most important lessons to her was the poached egg.
“A poached egg impresses. People won’t remember if you messed up the toast or have seeds in the orange juice if you make a perfect poached egg.”
Grandma had a poaching pan, but wanted me to learn how to make them without it. She’d yell if the boil went too hard and grab the spoon out of my hand if I wasn’t cradling the egg correctly, but would announce to Grandpa ‘your granddaughter made those’ when I got them right. She’s been gone six months now, and although she was a prickly curmudgeon, I wish I could cook and share her favorite breakfast again: a poached egg, a slice of white bread toast, and a can of V-8.
Grandma, my dad’s mom, was a stern type, but her care came through her food. On the weekends my sister and I spent with her, she indulged us with chocolates, crackers with cheeses, sausages and braunschweiger – a daily snack in German households – and every night a homemade root beer float. She liked to make us eggs sunny side up with crispy bacon. Grandma heated the pan, sizzled a pat of butter or a scoop of bacon fat out of a crock jar, and dropped the egg. The english she put on the spatula when we asked for ‘over medium’ was a sight to behold. I don’t recall cooking fried eggs with my grandma, but studied her technique to make it my own.
I might have been about eight years old when I first watched my Aunt Til make scrambled eggs. Til was my grandma’s sister. Toleda was her given name, and she was ancient from my first memories of her. Aunt Til was married to her husband Henry for only seven years once upon a time when she was young, but he died, and she never married again or had any children of her own, instead devoting her time to her church.
When I visited her, she saw my interest in what I thought to be some kind of fairy brew: a bowl of eggs whipped to a shiny golden froth. During breakfast prep, she would casually instruct me:
“Break all the yolks and swirl the fork until it’s all yellow.” “See how you can see the bottom of the bowl in that little hole through the mix when you lift the fork right? It looks like the water going down the drain, doesn’t it? That’s how you know you’re lifting them high enough to let the air in.”
Aunt Til patiently let me crush eggshells, flip forks, and sear egg to pan until I could make eggs just like hers. Decades later when I visited her for the last time at the nursing home, her 98 year-old brain didn’t remember our lessons, but I think of them often when I crack eggs into a bowl or when my daughter asks me how I hold that fork just right.
I continue the chain. I’ve taught all three of my children the secrets of egg cooking, the one culinary skill I have worth passing down. We’ve shared secrets, blown off steam, and rolled on the ground laughing during our ‘egg’ times. I think when my journey on this marble ends they’ll tell stories to their children and each other about ‘crazy mom’ and all her exploits. I hope they do it over some scrambled eggs.
Kristin Nador has been a military wife, SAHM, homeschooler, and animal rescuer. In her current reinvention she’s an aspiring novelist. She blogs at kristin nador writes anywhere, where she talks about writing and creativity. She lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with her husband and Pinkerton the Cat.