“Now I call that a pretty sight! Fresh orange juice and poached eggs on toast. There’s a proper breakfast for you!” -Russell Hoban, Bread and Jam for Frances
That’s what I made this morning: poached eggs on toast. This, at the request of William, who declared it to be his favorite breakfast.
Poached eggs are tricky things. No one tells you this before you try them, just like no one tells you that the worst chore (after potty-training) in parenting is the semi-annual transfer of seasonal clothing from boxes into closets and drawers. No, no one tells you that poached eggs are tricky, and when you’ve watched your mother lift the dripping eggs deftly from pan to plate a thousand times, you think you can do it too, no problem.
But poached eggs are tricky things. There’s the water temperature, and getting that just right. There’s the yolk of the egg, which wants ever so badly to break as it leaves the shell, as it drops into the pan, as it floats in the not-quite-boiling water, as you hoist it deftly (or not) from pan to plate. And then there’s the toast, which must needs be done right around the time that the eggs are, so that it can be buttered and waiting for you to hoist the egg deftly (or not) onto it.
Timing is really the thing here, as in most cooking, I’ve noticed. Invariably, my toast is done first, cooling and hardening, buttered or not, as it waits for the water to almost boil, and the eggs to poach. Or, remembering the hard toast from last time, I prepare the eggs earlier, and then, to prevent their over-cooking in the pan, take them out and lay them on paper towels, so that they cool into gelatinous blobs of distaste on the countertop.
Either way, it’s not so nice.
But I’m maturing, apparently. Because today I did it. I really and truly did. The eggs were perfect, the toast was fine, and I carried the steaming plates to the table where the orange juice and children were waiting.
They love the slicing part, that first poke of the knife into the egg so that the yolk runs in a glorious orange mess all over the plate. That’s what makes these “popp-ed” eggs (that’s what my mother always calls them): the popping of the yolk.
Yes, William loves this breakfast, and the other two, well… they eat it.
But today, Everett and Emma Grace ate theirs. William did not.
William is sick today. He woke up feeling nauseated, and although his stomach has done nothing about it, he continues to fight that disabling feeling, all the while suffering too from a fever. He lies on the sofa and doesn’t complain, but moans occasionally. Sweet boy.
I know what you are thinking: why did you bother making poached eggs for a child who clearly wasn’t going to eat anything? Answer: because stomach bugs are unpredictable things, and if something sounds good to a person suffering from one, it’s a better bet than anything that he’ll eat it. He wanted poached eggs. I made poached eggs.
He came to the table. He looked at his glorious, perfect eggs, he let out a whimper and returned to the sofa.
He was sad about his eggs. “My favorite breakfast and I can’t even eat it!” But I promised I would save his eggs for later.
What was I thinking? I have a hard enough time keeping the egg intact during it’s initial cooking and service. How to reheat and reserve? How to save in the first place?
But I picked up each egg carefully, and tucked each one into a plastic baggie, and I laid them ever so carefully inside the snack drawer of the refrigerator.
William raised himself up at lunchtime, and I offered him the ABC soup the others were enjoying. No, he wanted his eggs.
I did it again. I procured them with the gentlest tugs from the plastic baggies, laid them on a plate, and placed them in the microwave, saying an egg-prayer over them that they wouldn’t overcook and ruin their glorious orange yolks.
And it worked. I laid those warmed poached eggs on a fresh slice of buttered toast, and I sliced them so that the yolk ran in a glorious orange mess all over the plate. I was thrilled! Delighted! Amazed by my accomplishment! This is the sort of thing my mother can do, and now I can do it too! Surely that means something.
I salted it, I carried it to William. He looked at it and whimpered and went back to the sofa.
I’m not going to serve those eggs again. They have met their end in the disposal, and I’ll try again when he’s feeling better.