Speaking of eggs, some of the best life lessons come from them. Chicken eggs, specifically. Not that long ago, I noticed that despite owning about a half dozen hens we had zero eggs in our fridge. Throwing down $30 for a bag of feed every month without an egg to show for it didn’t add up. I asked my boys if they could go out and find the elusive eggs. I assumed the hens were getting sneaky, as hens do, and maybe they had found a new hideaway under the mammoth burdock or in the tangle of blackberries. Hours (or was it days?) later, there still were no eggs, and I confirmed with my kids that they had looked for the eggs. Oh yes, they assured me.
I have found that when it comes to verbs my kids and I have very different definitions. I really meant “hunt for eggs”, and I think they heard “scan for eggs.” I wandered outside and poked around in the many weed patches, growing more impressed with my clever girls. I even checked the old red doghouse my dad built years ago that was handsome and nostalgic but had never actually housed a dog (although now and then the cats napped in it if the sun was right). Nope. Truly stumped, I paused. A ridiculous idea floated to the top of my whirling mind… the nesting boxes in the hen house? No. Of course, my kids had checked there because it was the actual spot where chickens were supposed to lay eggs. I dipped my head into the coop and saw a mountain of eggs. Sigh.
I have these wonderful children, therefore, I usually have a lot of patience. I even taught middle school, so not a lot gets under the skin… except peeling stubborn eggs. That whisper-thin membrane that refuses to release the tender whites is my kryptonite. It reduces me to a nap-less toddler with too much sugar in a hot car seat. I decided to get curious and do some old-fashioned research.
I actually called humans on the phone to talk to them about how they cook an egg so that it cleanly peels. Honestly, it wasn’t just my frustration with the loss of the egg whites that brought me to the dramatic decision to talk to people about something as classic and uncontroversial as how to cook an egg, it was also my conversation about soap lather.
I guarantee you I get asked better questions than any other profession in the world, even newspaper advice columnist (my secret dream job), and the most recent was by a very distinguished man with silver hair and piercing bright eyes. He wondered which bar soap had the best lather. Well, it turns out I have a lot of thoughts about this odd and wonderful question. I also, surprising to even myself, have unknown preferences and quite an elaborate vocabulary to talk about the lather such as “bubble density.” We also talked about bubble size and how one decides what the best bubble size is for their particular purpose.
We laughed and delighted in these few moments of important but completely whimsical conversation between two strangers who didn’t need to know anything about each other to be respectful and accepting. It reminded me how much I miss not knowing things about people. I just really needed to talk about the basics of life – and an egg, well, that is where it all starts.
The first person I called answered the phone by anxiously asking, “Is everything OK?” because in truth I hadn’t called them directly on the phone for years. Our worlds have evolved so that a text is somehow more polite than an unannounced phone call. As if hearing a person’s voice, even tinged with worry, isn’t some of the best medicine we can freely give. Once I explained my mission, he quickly explained his tried and true method, which involved an electric pressure cooker. Too bad I’m too terrified of those to try it.
The phone number of the next person I wanted to call had disappeared from my contacts, and it sent a wave of incredulity through me because my smarty-pants phone should have known better than to foolishly misplace such vital knowledge. I went wandering about trying to find my dusty address book only to discover addresses long since abandoned through moves or deaths. Most entries written in pencil because ten years ago I knew better than to ink life’s temporary spots. I resorted to emailing her to tell her I needed to call her for a conversation of the utmost importance – and how could she resist that seduction? She wasn’t even disappointed with the topic and had much to say, although she eventually did resort to Google.
One egg debate happened in the Wellness Department itself with attention to all the details I had reviewed with my previous eggperts (wow, I can’t believe that didn’t dawn on me sooner) such as egg age, mineral content of the water, temperature and timing of the boiling pot, and the highly contested necessity of an ice bath immediately after the cooking of the egg. Most importantly, in this gal’s opinion, was the plastic Tupperware egg piercer that cracked the shell just enough to allow perfect peeling every time. I’m going to call her mom to confirm.
And so through these many conversations, I have finally come to the conclusion that cooking an egg to perfection and being able to peel it effortlessly depends on a thousand different variables that are all outside of our immediate control most of the time. But the planets can align, resulting in a euphoric kitchen moment when the clouds part and the birds sing and all is right with your egg. It does happen. Am I going to share with you the vast and random bits of things to try so you can be the person to finally crack this code?
No. Totally not going to do that. Because what I want more than a perfect egg is for my little bit of cooperative heaven that I clock in and out of for 40 hours a week to get back to our own core believes of being a community that cares for each other – no matter what. We use to look each other in the eye a lot more and find our own kindness reflected immediately back. And yes, before we had the internet, we had each other, so we could ask each other the really important questions like, “how do you eat a pomegranate?” or “which soap has the best bubble density?”
You’ll have to collect your own data. I have to warn you though: some eggs don’t wanna peel no matter how careful you are. Some eggs require such a fragile touch with endless patience that you might just chuck it far into your backyard and decide to opt for a tuna sandwich. If you do go for tuna sandwich, you should definitely put some kimchi on it. Hmmm, I wonder who knows how to make some kickin’ kimchi around here? Guess I need to call some friends. Or maybe you can stop by and tell me about yours. That’s what I’m here for. And really, that is why you are here too, isn’t it?