You know how sometimes you start getting hungry for dinner half an hour, maybe an hour before it’s actually time to eat? Or just when you’re getting ready to leave work?
Well yesterday, the hunger started in earlier than usual — about three hours earlier, around 3 pm. Despite repeated attempts at diverting it with first one glass of water, then two, then a cup of coffee, and finally a homemade lemon bar that one of my lovely coworkers happened to have baked the night before, it continued to intensify until reaching a nearly unbearable pitch around 6 pm, just as I was stumbling into my apartment. Ravenous, I threw open my refrigerator door and grabbed the first thing my hands fell on: a big bunch of mustard greens.
Temporarily stumped, as I’ve only ever cooked mustard greens twice in my life, I summoned my courage and willed my creative juices to start flowing. Okay Self, I thought: time to turn this into dinner, pronto. You can do it!
After a quick internal pow-wow, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for Indian curried mustard greens with spring onions. I’d use half for that, and save the other half for a slightly safer backup plan for mustard greens in oyster sauce, in case the first idea didn’t work out so well. I had never made either, but had seen a handful of recipes similar to both, and figured I could pull it off. Spurred on by my hunger, I set to work.
Half an hour and a flurry of activity later, I had in front of me two differently seasoned, equally inedible bowls of mustard greens.
And I do mean inedible.
I tried to eat them, I really did — remember, I was ravenous — but my stomach literally began to feel queasy about three bites into the oyster sauce bowl (SODIUM OVERLOAD), and my nose rejected the Indian curry version before the contents could even make it to my mouth.
I was overheated, dejected, exhausted, and still starving… but the thought of going back to the kitchen and embarking on another culinary adventure was simply too daunting. I needed something failproof that could be ready in five minutes so I could eat it and be done with it; something filling that wouldn’t weigh me down, as I had plans to go for a run in half an hour, before it got too dark.
More than anything, I just wanted to get out of my hot kitchen and distract myself from the depressing fact of my double-whammy disaster and the nasty abusive voices in my head. (Fail. Fail!!)
Weary and wary, I opened the refrigerator door yet again and tentatively peeked inside. My eyes fell on my carton of farm-fresh eggs, brown and speckled on the outside and full of orange yolky goodness on the inside, and suddenly I could practically hear angels “ahh”-ing in the background: I was saved.
Five minutes later I had in front of me a single egg overeasy on a piece of toasted old brioche. Ten minutes later I was cooling off in front of my fan, stroking my ego, and twenty minutes later I was lacing up my running sneakers.
Why am I telling you all this, you’re probably wondering?
Well for one thing, this experience got me thinking about eggs, and how great they are, and how sorely under-appreciated they can be.
Farm-fresh, they’ve got sweetly speckled exteriors, sometimes in lovely shades of pale blues and greens and creams, with sturdy opaque whites and creamy, deep orange, pert little yolks that really stand up in the pan. They’re a great source of protein, flavorful while also being flexible enough to work with lots of different spices and ethnic influences, and they are endlessly adaptable. This is not the first time that a single egg has saved me from culinary failure-induced starvation, staved off hunger between meals, or completed a dish like the figurative cherry on an ice cream sundae (think a runny-yolked egg over grilled asparagus or sautéed garlicky greens, over a bowl of brown rice and vegetables or polenta with tomato sauce, or simply scrambled with herbs and cheese). Nor do I suspect it will be the last.
Fresh eggs are one of those little joys in life that I sometimes forget to savor, and it’s important to cherish those little everyday joys wherever you can find them. As the saying goes, it’s the little things.
Also, before we go any further here I want to make sure I’m not laboring under some misapprehension that I never make mistakes in the kitchen. Because I can’t handle that kind of pressure. You can’t reinvent the wheel every time. At least I can’t. Maybe you can. (In which case, please — tell me your secret!!) Sometimes you try something new and it turns out great, but other times it’s only okay, or barely average, or (in my case) totally inedible… in which case the best that can be said is that at least it was a learning experience.
Point is: Life is an adventure, and the only way you can attain greatness is if you’re brave enough to take the chance that you might screw up a little along the way. And when you do, it’s not a bad idea to have an egg or two around, just in case.