Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cracking Eggs

I once attended a private school teachers’ conference where the keynote speaker posited that private school students might be like eagle eggs, requiring only a warm bottom to hatch out exemplary achievers. He framed it as something someone else said, and offended everyone sitting near me.

Because I was born and raised in St. Louis and I have been wondering all year about how much that mattered, and why some folks there think, say, that the cops in Ferguson were “just doing their jobs.”  When I was a kid we had Dr. Seuss books, including, “Horton Hatches the Egg,” in which an elephant is abandoned to sit on a nest through a bad winter and via the magical transformative powers of the universe punishing a neglectful parent hatches an elephant bird. Also, there is Twitter, where an egg is the default avi and emblem of a new user but most especially a new troll.

Ostrich egg, cracked

I had this errand in Poughkeepsie and I had to stop for gas, and the first place I stopped only took cash and I ask you: who has cash? I drove on. Merging back onto Route 9, I decided that if I had the cash, I wouldn’t spend it on gas anyway. There is a decrepit Sunoco station just up the road, but the first pump had “transaction cancelled” on the screen, so I pulled around to a second pump and nothing happened when I tried to swipe my card; as I tried to cancel the transaction, out came the 900-year-old proprietor shaking a chicken bone finger at me, “Out of gas! Out of gas!” he said, accusingly, as if what he meant was, “Get off my lawn!”

After the errand, I thought it would be a cool and productive thing to try Poughkeepsie’s “fancy” grocery so I stopped at Adams. Rarely have I been more poorly served by my determination.  For starters, how do you even get in the store? Some business innovator in the 90s figured out that hidden entrances and exits and a frustrating store layout will trap customers inside, extracting more sales from them. Yet, I persisted.  Then, I went in search of a cart, circling in and out of the store a couple of times, trying to understand. Finally, I found the carts, chained and all locked together. I followed a shopper with a cart, putting groceries in his car and asked him. He was, like, you have to pay a quarter! It was at this point I should have gotten back in my car. Of course, I didn’t have a quarter, either. But, no, I stayed and wandered and bought ground beef and never did find the beer or the popcorn.

I tried to count the supermarkets where I am pretty sure that I’ve actually cried, and came up with 6 different Seattle QFCs, 2 Whole Foods (both in NYC), 1 PCC, 2 Seattle Safeways, and 1 California Safeway (California Safeways are completely different from Seattle Safeways).  I do hate to shop, even if it’s just food.

Anyway, I had gotten the idea to make brioche buns for hamburgers again even though the first time I tried it I lost my shit having kitchen-mess-rage; see, the resulting buns were delicious and lasted for weeks in the freezer. Also, I had been offered the gift of an ostrich egg and accepted it in my effort to be an open-minded and curious person who appreciates trying new things. The ostrich egg is large as you might imagine, comparable to a cabbage, and the weight and size of it are nothing compared to the strength of the shell. Apparently one ostrich egg has the equivalent of about 10 chicken eggs inside it. The dog Cherry felt so much deep appreciation for the object she guarded the kitchen island where it sat, despite the fact that she couldn’t see it. I should have taken this behavior as a sign of trouble, of course.

I wasn’t going to try for something heroic like saving the shell by carefully blowing out the contents. No, I was thinking, let’s get this fucker cracked, ‘cause we’ve got dough to make. The Internet said you could do it with a hammer and chisel and also that you should have an assistant. So I had my youngest hold it and I tapped it with the chisel and hammer. So, well, a big crack formed down the length of the thing but it wasn’t enough of a crack to open it. So my kid encouraged me to tap it again. This was the moment the strong smelling cloudy yellow goo began spurting with great force out of the side of the egg. Basically now we had a tiny fountain of stonky ostrich booty-smelling rotten egg.

There may have been screaming.

The pets, who are pretty much all self-centered assholes every day of the week, were terribly interested in this entire procedure and were doing a joyous dance of anticipation. Those hairy fuckers were feeling tremendous admiration for our ability to get into the gas and putrefied ostrich yolk filled egg and really didn’t get why I had to yell and run around and put the egg in the trash in the garage and lament about how the dish soap wasn’t removing the smell from the bowl. But I’m telling you, the dish soap didn’t remove the smell from the bowl, people.

Getting back to the brioche, I had to use every last egg in the fridge (because brioche takes 10 eggs, bitches). And so I measured out all the milk and salt and yeast and flour and eggs and whatever and began the mixer phase. The mixer phase can be stressful because of the rising writhing dough blob that ascends violently from the bowl where it belongs. Flour and dough get everywhere and also there’s this long period where all you do is stand next to the gyrating mixer and you add a small cube of butter at a time and wait for it to be fully incorporated (whatever the fuck that means). This step requires patience. I tried to watch the mixer because last time it wanted to walk off the counter; this time,  I found it over in the corner dry-humping the microwave.

So while I was still trying to forget the smell and trauma of the rotten ostrich booty egg and my youngest was hiding in his room, I went to set the giant dough blob to rest overnight in the fridge and maybe make the slaw to make room and I discovered that the ground beef I bought the day before was turning all kinds of incredibly scary and ominous grey and brown colors and no longer looked like edible meat.  So now I was like, seriously fuck that. And, fuck that store.

But anyway I got the dough made. I got up early the next day to replace the nasty meat and do the baking.

So then the day after the hamburger party I drove the youngest child to a summer program and the day after that we were staying at a bed and breakfast near the school having breakfast with the other people staying there, as you do. We sat amidst the floral wallpaper and plastic plants on the shapely velvet-upholstered Victorian furniture and made obligatory chit-chat. One of the women was a history buff and held forth on the career highlights of Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward. I liked her.  Her husband complained that he wasn’t going to be getting any bacon or sausages. We also talked about cats and traveling with cats and the other wife, bossy and tart, informed me that a cat has to be trained to travel. The bacon lover told a cat story, and the history buff had to tell him that the cat he was talking about had belonged to another, earlier wife of his.  Bossy wanted me to know that they lived in a particularly beautiful place that was called New Hampshire. I said that I knew New Hampshire was beautiful and that I had lived in Vermont, but before I could say more, she interrupted me to say,  “New Hampshire is NOT Vermont.”

I wanted to reply, “No, New Hampshire would never send a socialist to the U.S. Senate,” but instead I smiled. I asked her where she was from and she proudly informed me, pausing to inhale, that she was from Poughkeepsie.

Bossy also told how she had a pet crow as a child; it had been brought to her when it had been found, unfledged, and her father had had a pet crow, and knew what to do and that made her seem somehow wonderful. Or at least like someone who had a strangely wonderful childhood.

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing creative writer. I am not offended by the fuck word, in fact I hear myself happily using it daily. But there is a difference between an old lady verbally assaulting a bad cooking result and a talent such as yours. Rereading this, I think it could have been just as delightful if the fuck word had been used less often. I love Wednesdays! keep it up. JoAnn