2 years ago
Eggs... Such a natural thing to eat and yet we tend to fry them into submission, boil them alive, scramble them into obscurity or poach them into oblivion.
People who can't cook eggs shouldn't even try, it's sacrilege as far as I'm concerned. Then again my mother always used to say I've the weirdest of concepts, and this from the woman who used to think she had to present every meal - even when only baked beans on toast - as perfectly as if she were serving in a four-star restaurant. Then she used to complain about all the effort she'd put in as though it was all our fault. Therefore I would rarely take her opinions seriously, after all the woman was clearly a few clucks short of a full chicken.
And yet, as the white begins to brighten in the pan, the shape all irregular like a blob of paint, I smiled to myself and listened to the crackle of butter against the snowy membrane. Whilst I let the edges go wherever they will, spread as far as they can and end up almost covering the pan - when my mother made eggs she would forever prod with the spatula, desperately keeping the pale goo in check, always in a perfect circle of a certain size. And what if it ever escaped? It would be surely ruined in her eyes.
I snigger into my pan, boy she was eccentric, nothing more and nothing less. Nowadays my sister doesn't even like eggs, which I've never really understood, even when we were children, but she's never been able to understand why I do like them so I suppose it's an equal confusion between the two of us.
Cakes... Another subject of debate between myself and mother, I’d often say she doesn't beat the mix long enough, she’d often say I beat it too much, I’d say she doesn't use enough flavouring, she thought I used too much flavouring. To and fro, to and fro.
That last phrase could describe almost every single conversation we'd ever had, though it usually ended up in a common ground with us merely laughing at each other. The main reason for this inevitable conclusion being because I’d think she was a nutter and she’d think I was an argumentative-minded twerp.
I wasn’t ever purposely arguing with her, it just so happens that usually, nine times out of ten she was wrong (in my mind anyway). Make that nine and a half times. Even as a child I greased the tins with more butter than she’d recommended, which always let the soft sponge simply slide out with ease, gently landing on the wire rack with a soft thud, its fluffy body left to slowly steam in peace filling the room with all kinds of wonderful aromas.
However being large in stature, she'd always been a calorie Nazi and used too little butter, therefore every time a sponge came out of the oven it had to be thrashed out of the tin like a disobedient child. Though when one ever pointed this out to her, she would always retort I was nothing like a sponge. She may have been mad but she was always damned quick with it.
Children... Something else that comes along in most people's lives. I say most – and I'm happy to say I'm no exception to this rule. My sister married young, she had two children, and got divorced a few years later and now lives down the road with her daughter and son who are currently twenty one and nineteen years old. God, that makes me feel ancient.
I haven't re-married yet, however you mustn’t be thinking I'm all alone in the world. I’ve had relationships from time to time; some of them even long term. But in truth even though I’ve often considered my marital status, I tend to now think it's just a meaningless piece of paper which will inevitably lead to another pricey and sticky legal battle over the kettle, therefore, no more marriage for me at present.
My mother of course would have disagreed with all of this, preaching time and again that I'd live to regret it when I was older. Oh I'm sure I will (sarcasm dripping from every syllable). Don’t get me wrong, although I’ve failed in marriage, I love my kids to death and wouldn’t swap them for anything in the whole wide world. But would I do it all again now I was older and wiser?
Oh yes indeed mother. I'm sure I'll miss at least the first eighteen months of sleepless nights as the little things scream for the heck of it; two or possibly three years of excrement-filled nappies, the child grinning each time a smell wafts over towards me; three or five years taking it to and from a nursery full of other smelly children; and then five years onwards of it not doing homework, demanding money, disagreeing with me, not following my instructions, ignoring my advice, thinking me a senile old fool before finally shutting me into an old folks' home without a second thought.
Damn was I really a part of all that?
Anyway, looking along from stirring my latest chocolate cake I notice the shiny leaflet I’d placed on my kitchen worktops just after it had been dropped through the door. The picture of a pleasant grassy-hill view below a cheery name, where in the foreground sits a happy old couple beneath a blossoming cherry tree.
Next to them is a nurse holding a few blankets to keep the old dears warm. All smiling like demented Barbie dolls – to me it looks a little too painful. I can't help but see the picture as something quite different, the nurse not holding blankets but ropes to tie the old couple down with.
Probably the only reason for the two old biddies sat there smiling is that they've been dead a good few days anyway and haven't moved since, happy to know they were dying and hopefully getting free of the place. Why hasn’t anybody noticed yet? Surely they'd be starting to smell?
And yet as my mind begins to further wander, my front door opens, snapping me out of my little reverie. I hear a familiar greeting. I put down the bowl, pluck the leaflet from off the counter and chuck it in the bin where it truly belongs. And in that same moment my mother walks in, red-cheeked after walking through the cold wind. Why she didn't drive I'd never know but darn it if I was going to bring it up. Because then there would be another eco-friendly speech.
Anyway, she was tugging off the coat she's had for a good twenty-five years and still not replaced, she smiles and notices the bowl in my arms. I see the cogs turning as her bright eyes calculate how to say it, though each and every time she says it, she says it the same way and each time I reply in the same old manner.
"You're not going to use too much butter again are you?"
"Care for some eggs Mum?"
And that was how eggs got to be marked up on the shopping list suspended from the refrigerator door. It’s funny how even the most mundane of things like cooking an egg can be filled with such emotive thoughts. Maybe I have too much time on my hands. Maybe I still miss my dear old mother, despite the rich fond memories she still musters. Maybe I’m just bored with being single.
But maybe, above all else... Maybe I just hate (with an absolute passion), the culinary art of cooking for one.
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