collaboration, life

The Men Who Fried Eggs

My parents do not fry eggs because they prefer the well-doneness of scrambling and boiling. Thus, I was in awe as a teenager when spending the night with a middle-aged couple from church resulted in a fried egg for breakfast. The wife had to go work earlier than the husband, so he was the one tending the skillet as I watched and exclaimed, “You can fry eggs?” I liked the flavor and wondered at the unfamiliar contrasting colors and textures of fried yolk and egg white. I remembered this simple cooking technique and returned to it on the occasional slow mornings during grad school and afterward, including last week. As I looked at the eggs in my pan, I recalled this and three other significant memories of men frying eggs for me.

slow morning calls for fried eggs

My last summer on Long Island was divided into three activities: applying for jobs in the morning, writing my dissertation in the afternoon, and hanging out with poets and songwriters in the evening. From Ryan, I learned about abolitionist pirate Samuel Bellamy and I occasionally sang background vocals with him at open mics. He invited several people to spend his July birthday in Greenport, a three-century-old harbor village that had been home to whalers, shipbuilders, fishermen, and oysterers. Since it would take over an hour to drive there, Leo, another of our crew, offered to carpool. I met Leo at his home, and we started the day by listening to music by Stevie Wonder as he made fried egg sandwiches on croissants. It was a very happy start to a very fun day.

artists hanging out in GreenportWhen I lived in Brooklyn, I taught beginning piano to the daughter of a friend from church. It was a supplement to my adjunct teaching at Suffolk County Community College and grant-funded musical theater club at Wayside Tompkins Park Senior Center. I usually met Richard and his daughter at her public elementary school and walked with them from there to their home. I enjoyed catching up with them during the walk and her after-school snack as part of my rhythm of life. After the piano lesson, I admitted I had missed lunch or failed to get groceries in the scraping by of life. Richard offered me a sandwich: he gave me two options, of which I chose fried egg. This sandwich had relish and a few drops of sriracha to complement the hearty bread and fried egg. I was surprised and grateful for the kindness.

In that same stressful season of life, I had to spend a night away. My car needed to be moved for street-cleaning while I was gone, and I had asked my church friend Peter to do it. I brought my car keys to him at his apartment in the morning, a couple of hours before my next appointment. He asked how I was, and I answered honestly: not well. I had too many things to be responsible for and not enough money or energy to do them. He asked if there were anything else he could do. I answered, “Breakfast,” because in over-sleeping and under-preparing I had not yet had food. I had no idea what he would give me for breakfast, but I knew it would be good because Peter is an epicure who would make beef bourguignon for fun and invite people over because it needed to be eaten. All I remember is that breakfast included a fried egg and that I was crying as I ate it because among the burdens of my life, this meal was thankfully one less weight to carry.

Although I am still working toward more balance in my life, there was no distress as I made fried eggs over cheddar and toast for breakfast with my husband one morning last week. My winter break is ending with this reflection: I have traded having little money for having little time; my energy varies, and many of my responsibilities are shared. Among many gifts from God, I am grateful to have a husband who knows his way around the kitchen as did my father and my first egg-fryer.

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