Saturday, 12 March 2016


When I was small, my dad taught me how to make scrambled eggs on toast.

It was a whole-kitchen enterprise, requiring precise execution.

Crack two eggs into a measuring jug, add a dash of milk. About so much milk. Season with salt, and a shake of white pepper. Not too much pepper. Whisk with a fork. A metal fork. The eggs must be frothed. Aerated. No slimy bits. You test this with the metal fork, like so.

Take a pan. Not any kind of pan, THIS pan. Melt a knob of butter. The knob of butter must be thoroughly melted, and distributed evenly across the bottom of the pan. Tilt it back and forth, around and about, to achieve this. The heat must not be too high, so that the butter scorches.

Transfer the egg liquid from the measuring jug to the pan. Stir it. Do not stop stirring all the while it is heating through. Stir it with a wooden spoon: this type of wooden spoon, not that type of wooden spoon. Keep the heat medium-low. Do not allow it to cook too fast.

Meanwhile, light the grill. Allow the grill to warm up. Place the bread beneath (two slices). Keep stirring the eggs. Keep a careful eye on both. Just before the eggs are done, take the pan off the heat, to prevent overcooking. When the toast is done, place it on the breadboard and butter it, to the edges, with this knife, the butter knife.

["But how do you know when it's done?" I'd plead. "How do you know?"

"When it looks done," he'd reply. Knowing when things were done was something I'd have anxiety about for many years.]

Place one piece of toast on a plate (this kind of plate, not that kind of plate). Cut the other piece of toast diagonally and place the triangles on either side of the square piece of toast. Position the eggs carefully on top of the square piece of toast only.

Retire to the dining table and consume while piping hot, leaving the whole-kitchen sprawl for your wife to clean up. Do it this way every single time.

It took me a lifetime to realise you were allowed to crack the eggs straight into the pan (a non-stick frying pan! Imagine.) You could use three eggs if you fancied it. Add a dollop of plain yoghurt instead of milk. Throw in some herbs, black pepper, as much as you liked. Chuck it all in, mix it all up, stir it a bit, it didn't matter. Or microwave it, it made no difference, it's just eggs, heated up. You also didn't need to diagonally slice the second piece of toast, you could leave it whole or slice it rectangular or not even have it at all.

No metal fork scraping sickeningly across the bottom of a pyrex jug. No superfluous apparatus, no excess washing up. No fraught atmosphere mined with terrifying, unspoken pitfalls. Scrambled eggs on toast was so simple. This realisation blew my mind.

It took me a while longer to work out that, if you wanted to, you could just pick the whole thing up and eat it with your fingers.

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