Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Amuse-Bouche

Photo by Melissa Goldthwaite/Food styling by Howard Dinin
This Thursday (September 25), I'll be joining a panel of fabulously talented writers at New York University (Fales Library and Special Collections, 70 Washington Square South, 6 p.m.).  We'll celebrate the relationship between literature and food, and the release of Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal.  If you happen to be in the big city, please drop by for some gustatory and literary delights.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is a selection from Books That Cook by poet/photographer Howard Dinin.  If you follow its instructions, you too may enjoy the perfect fried egg sandwich.


Making the Perfect Fried Egg Sandwich


dedicated to (n-1)


One egg.
The mammoth chicken gamete.
Primary color: yellow. Unary.
Pre-packaged,
Ingenious.
And
biodegradable.


Dust to dust. A sustainer.
Life itself
and contained in that
a death.
Not a paradox:
a meal, even for the dying.
Indeed, a preferred repast.


It may be the simplicity.
The sustenance
in so many dimensions.
A perfect food.
Life.


Here’s the recipe,
the one the dying prefer.
There’s that one egg,
and butter.
That’s it:
one egg,
one lump of butter,
walnut-sized,
sweet, mind.
Let the one dying add the salt.


The trick,
the cooking secret?
Frame of mind.


Think French.
The French for egg
requires three vowels,
the eggs of the alphabet.


The vowels open sounds,
throat and gullet unconstricted.
You can’t say “egg”
and swallow one at once.


You can in French.


One consonant,
and those French:
they don’t pronounce it,
but barely, a puff of air
between open lips, there
just to hold the word
together. The packaging.
An eggshell.


Think, consonant
with life.


Think French
for speed,
or rather pace.
The perfect fried egg
takes time.
We all,
not just the dying,
have so little.


You must take your time.
Haste is dissonant.


Consider this.
Perfect means
no flaws.
Ovum? Perfect, no?


Continuity
Open vowel sounds
Open throat
No constrictions.
No velar stops.
No looking at the clock.


Ovoid. Use a pan
with curving sides.
Curves, mind.
Not slopes,
no crevices.
Here’s a memory tip.
Curves are feminine;
it’s all one:
the egg the female cell.


You need a cup,
small,
ovoid. An espresso cup.
French, remember?


Crack the shell,
and separate it
intimate as you please
just above the cup.
Glides right in.
Just fits.
Let it sit.
And while you’re at it
let the butter sit.


The unary thing,
all one temperature
to start, once you start.
No hurry.


And for cooking,
keep it low to keep it slow,
the heat
a low flame, enough
to melt the butter.
Sufficiency.
No more, no less.
French.


Let the butter liquefy
till it’s albumen clear,
no color.
The only color is the yolk.


Swirl the pan
gently,
let the butter lap
the sides.
Then once it pools,
hold the cup
above the surface,
intimate as you please,
and tip the cup,
slowly please,
and slide the egg out.


So far, all lubricity.


Slow.
Open.
Lubricious.


Just as the albumen sets,
gently, please,
swirl the pan
so the egg slides free.
The flame stays low,
no browning,
the white stays white
to the end.


Now gently as you please,
and intimate,
you should have the hang of it
by now,
spoon
the fat to top the yolk.


Repeat.
Repeat.
Repeat.


Slowly.


Watch the pan, and drop
one slice,
two?
of bread
into the toaster.
What does the dying diner
want?
Open-face?
Or classic, something to take
in the hands?


I’ll remind you again.
No browning.
While the bread toasts,
spoon more fat
to top the yolk.


Repeat.
Repeat.


No browning.
Don’t hurry now,
so close to being done.
No short-orders
for the dying.


And when the toast pops,
plate one slice for sure.


Kill the flame
and swirl the pan.
Make sure the egg is free
to glide around.


Now here’s the tricky part.
Simple, but you’ll need
dexterity,
and a very thin
bladed spatula,
which you slide beneath the egg;
plate with toast
as near the pan as you
can get.
Slide the egg onto the toast,
and leave the fat behind.


Top it with the other slice,
if that’s what’s called for.


OK


Now!


Quick!


French, think French.
The order’s done.


Get it to the bedroom
where the dying diner
waits.

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