Sunday mornings are supposed to be slow. The past four days, Ive been away in my own city on a food-filled, fantastic adventure. Ill tell you all about it soon, but today is not the day. Today, I need to move, sloth-like, through the afternoon, watching movies and reading the Sunday New York Times, one section an hour. All this week, I woke up extra early, worked at my job, then ran to the Convention Center in downtown Seattle, only coming home to fall into bed. So today, I barely rose out of that bed. Time to reconnect instead.
And this morning, as I rose, with sleepy-caked eyes, granular light shifting softly through the bedroom-window blinds, I only wanted one thing: a plate of poached eggs.
When I lived in London with the CFP (and for those of you new to this blog, thats the Crazy Famous People; and no, Im still not going to tell you who they are), I ate fabulous food for months on end. Truffles flown in from France. Caviar sent on a plane from Russia. Enough good champagne to fill a bathtub. But perhaps the best bite of food I ate when I lived in London was a simple poached egg on toast.
Toward the end of my time there, when Mr. CFP was off in another country, filming for a week, Ms. CFP decided we should all go on a raw foods diet. She was a lovely woman, a healthy size 8. But she was haunted by the skinny specter of the gaunt gamine girls of Hollywood. After all, Mr. CFP refused to marry her, and that infused itself into everything she did. He loved his food. So did she. But when he was away, she decided that she would lose a lot of weight in one week. And she insisted that everyone else in the house follow her.
Raw foods were just coming into trendy existence. She heard snippets of information about the health benefits of vegetables untainted by steam or the grill she was convinced. Suddenly, she became the expert, lecturing everyone who listened about the evils of cooking. Ms. CFP convinced the familys personal chef to prepare us platters of carrots and celery and pile them around the kitchen for easy access at all times. There was no fruit, except for a small sliver of orange in the morning. Ms. CFPs personal trainer had warned her about the dangers of becoming addicted to fruit, and she listened. So there I was, living in a luxury home in Highgate, surrounded by decadence, nibbling on zucchini slices, all day long.
If we were good, raw tofu dip appeared before us for dinner.
Now, you may be wondering: why did I listen? Well, there was nothing else in the kitchen. I wasnt allowed to fire up the Aga on my own. Madame made it a moral imperative to eat our food au naturel. She was the raw food police. This is how my only visit to The Ivy one of the best restaurants in London was ruined, because I was only allowed to suffer with a salad.
By day three, I couldnt take it anymore. My head throbbed with pain from the lack of protein or calories. I felt myself growing crabbier by the minute. And I was becoming aware acutely that I was in the wrong place. I had to leave there soon. So, on the Sunday morning of that week, I left the house in my walking shoes. I rambled through Hampstead Heath, moved by its expanse and the chance to be in open air after the stuffiness of that house. The enormous vistas and lovely grasses cleared my mind. And by the time I had made it into Hampstead proper, I knew what I needed.
I walked straight to Giraffe, my favorite little restaurant in London. With its vivid orange walls, wide-open windows, and long wooden tables with communal seating, Giraffe invited me in. World music from the Putamayo label danced in the background of the vaguely African-inspired decor. Everyone in the place looked awake and relaxed, not a hint of the desperate frustration of the house I had just left behind. And on the menu: omelettes with goat cheese, organic sausages, and stacks of blueberry pancakes. Everything fresh and healthy. Everything cooked.
In the end, I decided on something simple: a plate of sourdough toast and poached eggs. When they arrived, along with a mug of hot, dark coffee (something else I had been forced to do without for days), I nearly cried. Perfect poached eggs, hot and waiting for me to eat them. I nibbled them, slowly, crunching and thinking, my mind slowly easing. By the time I had sopped up the pepper-flecked, yellow liquid with my last bite of toast, I had made my decision.
It was time to go home.
I left London a few weeks later.
Not every poached egg can be that cathartic. But every poached egg can taste that good. Of course, I can no longer eat poached eggs on toast the toast would make me more ill than the week of raw-food diet I endured in London. But on this slow, Sunday morning, I enjoyed poached eggs on a bed of sauteed spinach. I thought of that morning in London, how trapped I felt. And I felt grateful that my gluten-free life in Seattle more expansive than Hampstead Heath could ever be is all mine.
Poached eggs on spinach
If youre missing the toast underneath your poached eggs or if youd simply like to experience a new taste try this, one of my favorite breakfasts. This time of the year, spinach is arriving at produce stands a muscular green, as dark green as the expanse of trees on the Olympic Peninsula. The taste of that green faintly acrid, with all that nutrition packed into one bite slithers with the salty liquid of poached eggs. I love to pop the thin veil of white of a poached egg, and watch the yellow yolk come slowly pouring forth, pooling at the bottom of the bowl with the bed of green.
Some foods demand to be pristine, presented perfectly. But not poached eggs. They spill and rush, the colors blending, the warm liquid mixing with the wilted greens.
For years, I was too embarrassed to admit to people that I didnt really know how to poach an egg. It seemed too complicated and simple at the same time. I waited until I reached restaurants to eat them. But we all have gaps in our cooking education. That has been one of the joys of the past year for me acquiring all this cooking knowledge. Thanks to The Best Recipe, I acquired my foolproof method for poaching eggs. Now, I enjoy my own poached eggs nearly every Sunday morning.
four cups of water
two teaspooons rice-wine vinegar
one teaspoon salt (I like kosher salt for this job)
one tablespoon olive oil
one bunch of organic, well-washed spinach
pinch of salt and pepper
Set a deep skillet, full of water, on high heat. Add the rice-wine vinegar and salt. (You can also use white vinegar or white-wine vinegar, if you wish. The exact measurements arent so important here. You can use an approximated splash of vinegar and pinch of salt, if you wish.) Bring the water to a boil.
Break the two eggs into a small bowl. Turn off the heat and immediately slip the eggs, at the same time, into the now-simmering water. Put the lid on the skillet and set the timer for four minutes.
(A note here: I like my poached eggs mostly cooked, with just a bit of runny yolk, as in the photograph above. If you like them harder, cook them for four and a half minutes. Runnier? Three and a half.)
As the eggs are slowly poaching, fire up a second skillet on high heat. Add in the tablespoon of olive oil. Chop up the spinach, in rough pieces, then throw it into the hot oil. Remember that the spinach will wilt and shrink in the cooking process, so dont be afraid to use the entire bunch. This makes your breakfast extra nutritious. When it has wilted into a dark green pile, take the skillet off heat.
Fill your favorite bowl or plate with the wilted spinach. Use a slotted spoon to lift the poached eggs from their skill and drain off the excess water. Place them down on the spinach. Eat.