making poached eggs

The morning after a long delayed flight, I was still in transition to home. Grateful for my dear friends in New York and being able to sit at their kitchen table and relax before driving the last stretch to Massachussetts. I was watching Sam, son of my heart, making poached eggs. I smelled the vinegar, didn’t actually see him putting it into the pot of boiling water. I wasn’t really paying attention to the deliberate motions of his task, cracking each egg into a small bowl before sliding it all gently into the pot, waiting for the first one to firm up before adding the other. The plate he set on the table held the two finished eggs and a small mound of greens. He ceremoniously drizzled olive oil over both, followed by a sprinkle of course sea salt and a grind of fresh pepper.

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Complimenting him on the beauty of his presentation, he replied, “you know it’s all about the aesthetics”. And we smiled together. The camaraderie of two artists who have a mutual love of food. I asked about the leftover space on the plate, what wanted to be there. He had a ready answer, smoked salmon, and after going to retrieve some, patiently answered all my questions about this way of making poached eggs I never knew about.

I marvel at the twenty five year old man who I held in my arms when he was just two hours old, exactly twenty five years ago. Happy to be here to share his birthday, happy to be able to make a connection, however brief, in the space of transition I was in. I felt so at home here and yet the empty place on my plate, my own home, needed to be filled too. Feeling the challenge of settling where I was after the trajectory to home was set in motion.

Picking up Nora, unpacking, doing laundry, retrieving mail and few groceries were the first signs of settling back in. But it wasn’t until the next morning when Nora and I got out for our ritual walk in the woods that I felt I was in the final leg of this transition. Walking down toward the brook I realized that only NOW, I was really home. Now I was really noticing what had changed in relation to the two weeks I occupied in a very different way. The path was littered with the aftermath of a great wind, fresh strewn branches and twigs crunching underfoot. Whole sections of the brook were now frozen, and where the water was still rushing with force, the ice sculptures had grown in size and beauty. I was drawn to one spot in particular, to a gap between two edges of ice that seemed to be reaching towards each other.

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The thought arrived.

Transition isn’t a linear one way trajectory, but in fact is the space between two paths moving toward each other. Transition, like everything else in life, is always in relation. Like Sam with his gorgeous plate of eggs, moving from hunger to being satiated is just another form of transition. And the gap on the plate just another way for desire to remind us that there will always be a next moment.

Of course I couldn’t wait to try making poached eggs. Sam told me adding vinegar had something to do with the character of the boiling water. That sliding the egg in slowly from a bowl prevented the undesired spread or piece of shell getting in. Google helped clarify a few things. The vinegar helps catalyze the proteins in the egg white and keep it from spreading in the water, resulting in the nice tight formation of poached. What a thrill making these for the first time. I was able to actually watch for the level of yolk firmness I wanted, watch how each egg maintained their own form without mingling and become enmeshed, while still dancing in the pot together. Lifting them out of the water with a slotted spoon, they found their place together on a plate with slivers of fresh daikon radish, a handful of garbanzo beans, and a few pieces of pickled beet. With a little olive oil drizzled on top, with added salt and pepper, the meal was ready. Cutting into the first egg revealed yolk still soft and yet firm at the same time. Perfection for me.

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It’s good to be home. Sweet to feel how significantly it reached out to me as I reached out to it at the same time….

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