Ask a Glutton: I’m Through With Eggs
by Emily Beyda
What are good breakfast recipes you have for someone who deeply despises the taste of egg? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as they say.
The idea that breakfast is the most important meal is, I think, largely due to propaganda by the cereal industry. Why can’t the most important meal of the day be afternoon tea, or lunch? Or a burrito that you eat in bed at 3 a.m. while hate-watching the worst of Netflix? But that said, yes, breakfast is important! There is also something so intensely personal about breakfast; it’s the least performative meal, I think, the meal that is the most in tune with your personal preferences and idiosyncrasies, the meal that you don’t have to apologize for. Have you ever seen this slideshow of people’s portraits next to pictures of what they eat for breakfast every day? Fascinating.
So if you’re eating breakfast by yourself, eat whatever you want. Asian cultures are a great source of inspiration for non-egg breakfasts, from Chinese congee rice porridge to Vietnamese pho, and even Malaysian kaya toast (which yes, does contain egg, but tastes more of creamy coconuttyness than anything else). But I suspect that solo breakfasts aren’t really the issue here. If you’re old enough to use a computer, you’re probably old enough to have figured out what strange combinations of starches and proteins and what have you that you prefer to start your day out with. No, the real issue for the nutritionally nonconformist is always other people. After all, throughout your life you will probably be overnight host to a number of people; friends, relatives, boyfriends and girlfriends, couchsurfers, one-night stands. And those people need to be fed.
I’d argue that the best answer to this conundrum is crepes. They’re delicious, versatile, and seem fancy but are actually super simple to make. Just combine a cup of flour, half a cup of milk, two eggs, and two tablespoons of butter, and voila! If you are totally opposed to egg in even its sneakier, batter-infiltrating forms, you can always substitute vegetable oil. The first crepe is always a little wonky (I’ve been telling people there’s a Russian folk saying to that effect for years, but I just googled it, and it turns out I may have made it up), but after that, it’s easy as pie. Also, I’m pretty sure that it’s a scientific fact that the best way to get someone to love you forever is to feed them crepes with nutella and strawberries, so use your newfound breakfast powers wisely.
A few of my close friends have started playing Dungeons and Dragons, despite being well-adjusted and in their late 20s/early 30s with steady girlfriends and healthy social lives. Naturally I am horrified; now I know what a soldier feels like when watching the best men in his company mowed down by an unrelenting barrage of enemy fire / gonorrhea . These friends enjoy the finer things in life: your art house cinema, your craft beer and single malt scotch, your gallery walks, etc., which makes this recent interest of theirs even more mind-boggling. If this “hobby” of theirs continues, I fear the worst: cosplay. I think my best bet would be to invite them over on their scheduled game night and cook them a meal that will break the spell that has been cast over them by the cruel Dungeon Master we call Irony. Which is where you come in: what culinary chicanery would you suggest cooking up for these Level 5 Losers to ensure they forget they ever enjoyed sitting around pretending they were elves/goblins? I just want my friends back.
Before I answer this question, I should admit to a slight bias in favor of Dungeons and Dragons. True, I don’t have enough nerd street cred to have actually played, but I am a big fan of that one Freaks & Geeks episode where Daniel plays D&D with the Geeks, and an endlessly charming and fun-looking time is had by all. If I’m being honest, I’ve always wanted to learn how to play myself; all that imaginative yelling looks right up my alley. Only my lack of a sufficient concentration of similarly inclined friends has prevented me from achieving my dream. So you should probably take it with a massive grain of salt when I tell you this, but, knock it off, man!
Absolutely everyone in the world needs a hobby. Especially in need are those of us whose day jobs involve repressing, to whatever extent, our creative urges. Some of us macrame, some of us garden, and yes, some of us dress up like fictional characters and hang out in convention centers. Your friends sound like serious, responsible people who, for the most part, have their real world lives worked out. I don’t see any harm in them escaping to the elf kingdom every once in a while. In fact, part of me suspects that you can’t really be this upset about a little bit of escapism, especially if you’re not being forced to participate.
And maybe that’s the problem; it’s just not your thing, and their things used to be the same as your things, and it sucks that that’s not the case anymore. It can kind of be the worst thing when you don’t like the same things as your friends, and start feeling left out of whatever non you involving activities they start planning. Fortunately, there is a culinary solution to this as well. They might already have a Dungeon master, but they’re probably still in need of a master chef! OK, that was a pretty terrible transition. But my point remains; making snacks for the group is an excellent way to participate without having to perfect your dwarf impression or dice rolling skills. Ina Garten’s cheese straws are perfect; they’re delicious, easy to eat while distracted, and inject a certain amount of Hamptons prepster class into even the broiest of occasions. Plus, if all the dragon-slaying gets to be a bit much for you, they pair excellently with a really strong martini.
What should I make to receive my illegitimate baby’s father’s Texan parents?
I think I should open by saying that your illegitimate baby is the future. I mean this both in the general sense , and in the particular: the CDC estimates that 40.7 percent of all American babies are born by unwed mothers. So if your baby’s grandparents are concerned with the normalcy of the whole thing, they can rest easy.
Since you mention specifically that said grandparents are Texan, and since your email address comes from a server more commonly used outside of the U.S., I’m guessing that the issue here is one of cultural exchange as much as nontraditional parenting. (Though I could certainly be wrong.) My first impulse was to tell you to make something “American,” to show them you’re interested in becoming part of their family, and sending you the recipe for one of my great grandmother’s famous Tex-Mex creations. But on second thought, that seems like a mistake. The aim of what you’re doing is ultimately to introduce them to you; your background, your parents, your likes and dislikes, the things that make you the wonderful golden girl that their beloved son chose to make an illegitimate baby with. You need to make something that feels like home.
The common thread across familial recipes seems to be that they take time, elevating cheap ingredients to sublime deliciousness with long and careful cooking. This is true across cultures, from Filipino adobo to Japanese curry and French coq au vin; the coziest, homiest dishes are recipes that will take their time in coming together. This looks different for every family, and here you are, conveniently, in the process of forming a brand new family of your very own, which means that you get to pick what your family foods are, what recipes make you feel the most at home.
In my family, for example, homey food usually means a big pot of vegetable soup, and a loaf of homemade bread — usually Jim Lahey’s famous no knead bread, which is so simple and delicious that it’s practically canonical at this point. The New York Times published the classic version a few years ago, but variations abound. The soup is perfect because it is both delicious, foolproof, and endlessly adaptable. Just saute a mix of equal parts onion, carrot, and celery, with a few garlic cloves thrown in for good measure. Then lower the temperature of the stove, add broth and whatever vegetable bits and ends you have lying around, adding them roughly in the order of how long they’ll take to cook (for example, potatoes first, then green beans, kale last of all). Then toss in — and this is the crucial part — a can of diced tomatoes. If you have a rind of parmesan cheese lying around, make sure to add that as well; it’s one of my mother’s best tricks and lends a delicious savory note to the proceedings without overwhelming the flavors of the vegetables. Lower the heat to almost nothing, and go watch a movie, or paint your nails, or clean the house, or do whatever else it takes to relax yourself before company comes. The soup will be ready when you are. If you want something more substantial, toss in a can of chickpeas, cannellini, or great northern beans, or boil some small pasta shapes and add those right before you serve the soup. This is comfortable, easy food, food that will fill your house with its warmth and smell and make everyone who walks in the door feel at home.
But, as I said, home cooking is different for everyone, and this might not be what you’re looking for. So I’m opening this one up to the commenters: what are your most cherished family recipes? Any tips for dishes so delicious that they overcome all bounds of region and relation? Share them for the letter writer, and me, and anyone else who finds themselves in the position of having to make a new family for themselves.
Photo via bensheldon/flickr.