The Topic At Hand: How Do You Like Your Eggs?

It all started with a fried egg. One egg, fried in bacon grease in a cast-iron skillet—bathed really—the yolk runny, the whites blistered and bubbled, the edges crispy. The best way to eat a bacon-fried egg was on white toast slathered with mayonnaise, piled with bacon, and doused in Worcestershire sauce. This is how my dad liked his eggs before he found out he had high cholesterol. The fried egg sandwich was cheap and filling and satisfying enough to be eaten for any meal. But it was also indulgent and dirty and served with the unspoken knowledge that despite being so undeniably good, it was a little bad—artery clogging bad—so there would be no seconds. This is the egg of my childhood, my primordial egg, my platonic form of egg, the egg that defines who I am. It’s also the egg that marks my dark years of conspicuous consumption.

egg sandwich closed

A couple of years ago, when I was short on money and going through graduate school and looking for cheap ways to sustain myself and my wife and our son, I turned to the egg. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t wake up one day and say, let’s start eating more eggs. It was more innocent than that. I made a fried egg sandwich for my wife. She scoffed at first. She called it W.T. She complained about the mayonnaise. But when she bit into it, the crunch of bacon resonated in our bare apartment, the yolk exploded from the sides and mixed with the Worcestershire sauce, and she said, oh that is so good.

Because they were a low-cost source of protein and omega 3s, eggs became a foundation food for the family. They were hearty and diverse enough to be both a principal ingredient and a filler. We started experimenting. I fried eggs in olive oil—extra virgin—and served them with crusty bread. I fried them on top of tomatoes sprinkled with cumin and salt and pepper.

  • My son liked them in the hen house: cracked into a hole ripped out of a piece of bread then fried until both sides were crispy. He also liked them scrambled on low heat in butter, or in a 50-50 mixture with mozzarella—cheese eggs.
  • For my wife, I scrambled eggs with salsa, or with potatoes and onions and peppers and tomatoes and chunks of ham or salami or sausage or anything else I could scrounge up from the fridge. I called that the Mess and I’d melt cheese on top and eat it with jalapeño salsa and sliced avocado.
  • When I was hung over and feeling a freight train rumbling through my head and the whiskey filtering through my liver, I needed two eggs from La Bagel Delight, fried on a greasy griddle ladled with liquid butter, then shoveled onto a roll with sausage—pork, not turkey—and yellow cheese I knew would stick to my teeth and throat and intestines.
  • I scrambled eggs with chorizo and rolled them into a tortilla or piled them onto a hoagie with black beans and sour cream and white cheese and cilantro.
  • My son called hardboiled eggs hard-fried eggs and we liked them sliced on a sandwich with nothing more than a can of tuna in olive oil piled onto a baguette with red onion.
  • I put them whole—hardboiled, not hard-fried—in my braciole: proscuito and Parmesan and pine nuts and basil rolled up in a tenderized piece of brisket or pork and simmer all day long in a ragu.
  • We put them in potato salad, and we made plain ol’ egg salad, too. The kind with boatloads of mayonnaise and celery and onion and mustard; the kind that’s best piled onto white bread with iceberg lettuce and a slice of tomato; the kind that gave us all embarrassingly toxic gas.
  • On Easter, we liked our eggs deviled.
  • I cooked two-minute eggs for five minutes and served them in a shot glass—my wife’s favorite. I tried poaching eggs but never could get that vortex of water and vinegar just right, which is why we splurged on eggs benedict and a Bloody Mary when we went out for brunch.
  • I cracked eggs over bi bim bap and into ramen.
  • I made Spanish tortillas and any number of spaghetti frittatas: with tomatoes, with cheese and salami, with spinach and sausage, with broccoli.
  • When I was feeling fancy, I baked eggs on top of corned beef hash in ramekins topped with herbs. That always made them look pretty.

egg sandwich

When I finished graduate school and started making more money, we were a family heavily invested in eggs. This made my wife nervous. There were conflicting reports about the benefits of eggs. Eat an egg a day. Eggs are high in cholesterol. But it’s the good cholesterol. My wife decided to divest herself and our son of eggs. She made us join the food co-op. She turned to a “healthier” organic diet with more greens and grains. She preached moderation and so did my dad and my doctor. My son might have, too, if he could talk.

I tried to self-regulate my consumption. But the more I tried, the more I needed them. And instead of giving them up, I ate more of them. Soon, eggs were just a small part of a broader problem: infectious greed. I would overhear a conversation on the subway about how some chef was serving goose eggs fried in goose fat and I ached with envy. I got extravagant. I bought quail eggs for a dollar a pop. I put eggs on my burgers. I pined for that $40 ostrich egg at Whole Foods. My wife said I was irrationally and dangerously invested in egg.

That’s when I started hiding things from her. Before heading home for a meal of grilled wild-caught salmon with wilted organic greens and brown rice, I found myself stopping at the diner across from my subway stop for a fried egg sandwich and fries to go. I’d walk down the street inhaling my food from the tinfoil wrapper. Mothers pushing Bugaboos and Maclarens would cross the street to avoid me.

None of this was sustainable. It was just a matter of time before I crashed. There were physical signs of impending doom: daily heart burn, a persistent pain and numbness in my teeth, shortness of breath, decreased sex-drive, chronic constipation.

ostrich egg

It happened one night last October. I brought home that $40 ostrich egg from Whole Foods along with a pound of artisanal bacon. I snuck them into the apartment in my messenger bag. After a pleasant meal of wild mushroom risotto and an arugula salad, my wife and I put our son to bed. I told my wife I was going to stay up and watch Deadwood, a show I knew she couldn’t stand, and she headed to our room to read. When I figured she was asleep, I took out the wok and fired up the stove. I worked quietly by the iridescent glow of the television slow frying the bacon on low so I wouldn’t wake anyone with a loud sizzle. When the pound of bacon was crisp and degreasing on newspaper, I hammered the top off the ostrich egg and poured it into the wok. Jesus, what a sight. I had to raise the flame to get the edges crispy and that’s probably what woke them. When my wife walked into the kitchen holding our son in her arms, I was shoveling fistfuls of yoke saturated bacon into my mouth and wishing I had two pieces of bread big enough to make a sandwich. My son rubbed his eyes in that cute and confused way kids do when they’re still half-asleep. Yoke dripped from my chin onto the counter. Dad? he said. Humiliation rippled through my body.

I survived the crash. I got out just in time. I had the initial signs of heart disease. I like my eggs in moderation now. I regulate myself with the help of my wife and son and a doctor who checks my cholesterol every other month. We all need a little regulation. The heartburn is gone, my teeth don’t hurt anymore, and my wife likes the amount of weight I lost—a lot. My diet is diversified enough that I’m not dependent on any one food. I still eat eggs but not very often. That fried egg sandwich—my son and I will eat it once a year on father’s day.

——

Photos by the author.

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    • Leeroy

      I am so happy that at this moment, I don’t have any eggs in the fridge. I am so damn hungry now.

    • Crying – sobbing…… sniff,sniff — you bad boy! Did you kill Humpty Dumpty?

    • It’s interesting how financial hardship can change one’s perspective on what consists of acceptable food. If you’re a foodie who craves variety and enjoys preparation, then the fetishization of whatever you have to work with can become a way of compensating for the fact that you aren’t proud of what you’re eating.

      So it’s fitting that what’s eaten with the ostrich egg is artisanal bacon.

    • max191

      Thanks for writing this blog and sharing it with the world. I would like to know how to go for reading your rss blog. Please let me know if possible.
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    • Guest Reader

      so funny! 🙂 THANKS. Great read.

    The Author

    Antonio Aiello

    antonio.aiello
    Antonio Aiello is the online editor for PEN American Center where he co-authored and edited PEN’s Handbook for Writers in Prison. His most recent work can be read at anderbo.com or on his web site, antonioaiello.com. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife and two children. See all of Antonio Aiello's contributions to Revolving Floor here.

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