Travelling Lady’s Cookbook continued (see preceding blogettes)
Green Eggs and Ham
The influx of East European people to the British Isles had disturbed many narrow-minded souls and inflamed a few racists, but, for a food lover like Epifanea Tredwell, it had just been a facilitator of new gastronomic experiences.
xxxIt had also prepared her for the experience of buying food in shops where every label looked like the lower lines of an optician’s chart. Not that she could distinguish all the types of charcuterie, but she knew enough to be able to buy some good smoked ham.
xxxAll the threads of our life cross, intertwine and come together, sometimes in pleasantly surprising ways. Growing up with the crazy rhymes of Dr Seuss, it never occurred to her that green eggs and ham could be the name of an edible rather than a comically disgusting dish.
I would not eat them here or there.
I would not eat them anywhere.
I would not eat green eggs and ham.
xxxThat changed when she found herself in a cool delicatessen in the city of Nottingham, which featured a breakfast of that name.
xxxSo that jar of pesto was bought in Genoa with at least a vague notion that some of it would be meet its manifest destiny when she found the right ham, meaty, smoky and, thanks to frantic but lucid sign language, cut very thick.
I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.
xxxBut I will eat it in a flat, I’ll eat it up and that is that. I’ll cook it, cook it, for myself, I will not share with no one else.
xxxOK, leave the poetry to the good Doctor. It annoys boyfriends too.
You woke me up to tell me that?
My favourite breakfast though
Well second favourite ☺
I miss that a lot
Buy some ham and eggs then
You know what I mean
I repeat, filthy bastard
Did you find sourdough?
xxxShe didn’t think so, but whatever it was, it wasn’t as dense as most of the breads there, and it made reasonable toast.
xxxThe scrambling of eggs was for Epifanea a meditative, almost religious experience. Over a very low heat, she melted some butter in a copper-bottomed saucepan. She broke a pair of fresh eggs, their yolks a deep golden colour, and gave thanks to the chickens that ran free behind the shop, drinking their health with a large gulp of orange juice. Then she whisked briskly with a large fork, blending yolk and white into a rich, yellow soup, before adding salt, ground white pepper and a splosh of single cream.
xxx“Still single, a nice, rich cream like you?”
xxxShe tipped the mixture into the pan and began to stir steadily with a small wooden spoon. In her earphones she had chosen the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony.
xxxWhat Love Tells Me.
xxx“You find love that boring?” he’d said, only half joking.
xxx“You have no soul.”
xxx“I sold it long ago to some guy with horns, to get you in my life. I thought it was a good deal. Still do.”
xxxAh, you couldn’t expect to agree on everything, she told herself, as she stirred the egg mix and kept it from setting on the base of the pan. She tried to think of something they did agree on, some taste they shared. Then she stopped trying and told herself she still loved him to bits and it was never about shared interests, after all. And she turned all her attention to the eggs and the music. She loved it, it was beautiful, it was moving, it moved steadily and majestically but tenderly to its climax, and most of all, it lasted about twenty-five minutes, which was the perfect time to scramble a pair of eggs, leaving them firm but still moist.
xxxSelf-control was needed. The stirring needed to be regular and gentle. It didn’t need to swell in intensity as the music did. But she wasn’t that keen on minimalism. And it could be interrupted, albeit briefly, long enough to pop the two pre-cut slices of bread into the toaster. The ham was already cut and warming over a hob on its lowest setting.
xxxShe liked the way the egg tried to form into lumps, like mini omelettes, only to be thwarted in their coagulations by her insistent wrist action. As the mixture started to stiffen, she flicked a few small knobs of butter into it, and stirred them in as they melted.
xxxAnd now for the vital ingredient that turned the eggs eponymously green, and gave a garlicy basil tang that went so well with the ham. She blended in two generous teaspoons of the pesto genovese, its cheese and pine nuts but mostly its herbs turning the egg mixture into an olive drab gunge.
xxxThat can’t be the right word, she thought; so unappetising; and then, it’s not green enough.
xxxShe added some more pesto. Flavour was more important than getting the colour right, as she’d learned when she tried to make her Thai red curry brighter with extra chillies. But she also knew from experience that green eggs could handle quite a lot of the most garlicky pestos without disturbing the balance of flavours too much. It just needed less, with the anaemic yolk of a British supermarket egg, to make the dish do justice to its name.
xxxUp, noisily, popped the toast, perfectly timed to coincide with the creamy green mixture being taken from the heat. Deftly she spread the pale local butter on each slice, then spooned the eggs to the side and overlapping them. The warmed slices of smoked ham arranged neatly on top, the whole assembly was taken to the table, to join the glass of orange juice and the cafetière of java.
xxxThe perfect start to a sunny Spring day. She was in such a good mood she didn’t even stir up his envy with a photograph.
xxxShe just ate.