The earliest memory I have of cooking was in the kitchen with my mother. It’s hard to say exactly how old I was but it must have been about the time I was in fifth or sixth grade, maybe younger. We made a cake. I say we because I am sure that my Mom was close at hand in case I needed questions answered.
It was a cake mix and I don’t remember exactly what kind but it must have called for eggs to be added to the mix because when it was made and being eaten by the whole family there were a number of shells discovered in the cake itself. It was all accepted in good humor and I don’t believe any of the cake was thrown away but it was obvious that I needed to learn how to handle eggs.
For my next cooking lesson Mom took me aside and taught me how to make one of my Dad’s favorite sandwiches. It was a fried egg with a couple of strips of bacon and mustard on the bread.
Dad told me once that his father used to take these sandwiches with him for lunch when he worked for the state highway department. He carried them in his lunch box and sometimes when he came home there would be a half a sandwich or more he had not eaten. My father said he loved to eat those leftovers.
When I was a young man just out of high school I worked in a spring factory and used to make these sandwiches for myself to take to work. If you toasted the bread and stuck the sandwich in a plastic bag or wrapped it in wax paper the heat of all of the ingredients would cause steam to condense on the inside of the bag and make the sandwich just a little bit soggy. For some reason, I always loved that effect on the sandwich itself.
My Mom pulled out her small Revere Ware frying pan, with the copper bottom, and had me place two small strips of bacon in it after she turned on the electric burner. After the bacon was fried on both sides and set aside, we used the grease in the pan to cook an egg that I had to carefully break into the pan. Many times while learning to fry eggs I cracked the shell of the egg and while dropping it into the pan had the yolk break. I didn’t really mind all that much and still ate the results of course, but it was always a matter of pride trying not to break the yolk. If it was cooked properly it would be just a little bit soft in the sandwich. Not too much, just a little bit soft. And later when it was eaten for my lunch break, cold, it really did not matter all that much whether it was broken or not.
In the next few weeks after making this first fried egg, I learned to be a little bit careful when cracking the egg and I also had to learn that by increasing the heat of the burner I could not really make the egg cook faster without the finished product suffering in quality. I had assumed that by cooking on high I would be able to hurry along the egg frying step and thus sit down to eat sooner. Of course the eggs started to look and taste a little bit crispy on the edges. It was a good lesson in patience that I wish I could say I used for the rest of my life. Education is a lifelong experience.
It was a big deal to me after I mastered the art of frying an egg to be able to make this sandwich for myself whenever I felt like it. Prior to this, a bologna sandwich with butter or ketchup was about as complicated a meal as I could construct. Now I was really cooking.
This morning I made a fried egg sandwich much like what I used to make but with one small change. I used whole grain high fiber bread. I really enjoyed it and now I’m wondering…should I attempt to make a cake mix and see if I can get it finished without the egg shells?