Peeling Eggs: A Lyrical Essay and Meditation

Updated: Jan 3


Isn't it amazing that the same water that hardens an egg is the same water that will soften a carrot? Given the right temperature and time period, different reactions occur. It's chemistry, biology, and physics all playing together on the playground that is the kitchen. My favorite part of cooking are the life-lessons I find in the kitchen. A chicken egg is a curious metaphor. You see, when you boil an egg opposed to frying one, it is still not ready to consume. You must peel it first. Only when it's exposed is it ready to consume. Instructions: - Salt water and bring to boil. - After water is boiling, insert eggs and set a timer for 12 minutes. - After timer sounds, remove from heat and run cold water over eggs until cooled. - Once cooled - peel. These are my paternal grandmother's instructions for hard boiled eggs. I didn't like my grandmother's cooking much but it was with her, my love for culinary adventures began. When I was little, we'd (my brother an I) go to her apartment and she would make chicken cacciatore, served with a glass of root beer sweetened with sugar cane. We weren't allowed to drink the root beer until we finished a small can of v8 tomato... a drink my brother an I loathe til this day, but we always enjoyed how she explained the food and the importance of ingredients. As her mobility deteriorated, I became the cook for my grandma. I'd go over to her house after school once a week (or sometimes once a month) and cook her meals and do her dishes from the previous. I'd do her grocery shopping. I'd go out into her orchard during apple harvest and pick for her peace-of-mind. I didn't do it as often as I'd like, but I felt privileged to help her with one of the most basic necessities of survival: Food. Despite her instruction through some of the most complicated recipes, my mind always goes back to eggs. It was my grandmothers who taught me to prepare eggs. My maternal grandmother, who was also crippled, instructed a five-year-old me from the bottom of a stairwell on how to scramble eggs. Like a dog at the end of its leash, she stretched her oxygen cord as far as it would allow and had me peek over the banister with a skillet, a glass bowl, and whisk to make sure I was on the same page. She lived in my parent's basement until I was seven, and the kitchen was upstairs. While my parents were at work one day, she reluctantly complained of hunger and knowing she was diabetic, my parents had warned to watch her sugar levels. Our routine was, I would make her half a peanut butter and honey sandwich on white bread, and she would wash that down along with a sprite and her pills, but on that day she refused it. As a result, I asked her how to make my favorite food, which at the time was scrambled eggs, and then ran upstairs and figured it out. At first, grandma was scared, "Sugar! I don't think you should be workin' that stove without your mama near!". She hadn't realized I was going to act on my request for information, but after a few minutes of me narrating to her my competency, her hunger gave in. I plated them on a white piece of china with a glob of ketchup. Just how I liked it. It was my paternal grandmother who taught me how to boil eggs. I was twice the age I was when I learned to scramble, and she told me she wanted to eat an egg salad sandwich. I had no idea how to make eggs into a salad so she gave me those instruction I recited a few paragraphs back. Her egg salad recipe was a bit different than most: - Melt half a stick of butter in a saucepan over the stove. - Add salt and garlic to it. - Pour it into mashed, hard-boiled eggs, and smother it onto toast - Add tomato and avocado if desired. One of my favorite recipes of all time. Today, as I'm peeling eggs, I am grateful for my grandmothers. Eggs are a source of life, an origin, a tale of generational and eternal cycles, and that is exactly what I feel when I pick one up. You see, it was in my grandmothers where I originated, so the fact they taught me how to cook chicken eggs seems appropriate to me. In my hand I hold versatility, nutrition and vibrant color, and as they say, " you are what you eat." Looking at a hard-boiled egg, I think of how a shell can protect the contents for a certain period of time... Eventually, if this egg would have been fertilized, the egg would have hatched, the shell being completely destroyed, only for a tiny chick to emerge and mature. However, this egg was not fertilized. and here I am destroying its shell anyway. I have to strip it away in order to digest the nutrients it provides, which gives me life. In order to digest something, I must strip it bare to its core. The lesson here is, despite two very different storylines, the destiny of the shell is the same. It will be destroyed and from it, life emerges.