The longer I am pregnant, the more immediate my food needs become.
If you have been reading this site for awhile, you know that I love playing with new flavors, tasting new foods, throwing ingredients together and inventing something that I have never made before. For the first year after I lived gluten-free, innovation was my constant watchword.
But after awhile, you slow down. And especially now, when my belly protrudes before me and strangers smile on the street, I just want to eat.
As I write, I can hear the roast chicken with lemon sizzling in the oven, the smell of the browning skin wafting toward me. Before I leave the house to pick up the Chef at the end of the night to celebrate (a four-day weekend begins this evening!), I’ll throw some jasmine rice, a little lemongrass, kosher salt, and butter into the rice cooker. Roast chicken and rice is what we’re having for dinner. And in bed, at nearly midnight, I know this food will taste damned good.
Of course, each day I still want something different, as simple as it might be. A handful of pistachios, some Pyrenees goat cheese with green peppercorns, pickled sea beans, five strawberries dipped in vanilla sugar — each of these has been a snack this week. I want to give Little Bean as much variety as I can. (Did you know that little ones can start tasting the food that mothers eat in the seventh month? The amniotic fluid changes its flavor according to what I eat. Now there’s a lovely responsibility — giving Little Bean the start of a palate with the mouthfuls I choose.) I certainly haven’t fallen into a rut.
However, the other day, a deep, old craving came over me. I needed an egg salad sandwich.
The summer I turned sixteen, I literally ate an egg salad sandwich for lunch every day. You may think I’m exaggerating, and perhaps I am. There might have been a tuna fish sandwich once in a while. But I remember a wooden table in a cool house — the only respite from the pounding heat outside — with a plate. A white-bread sandwich plump with thick-cut egg salad and a mound of wine-dark bing cherries. Alongside it, a glass of cold white milk. Between swimming sessions and time in my room reading books, this egg salad sandwich was the still point of my day. And each day, I anticipated the taste, with great elation.
I’m not sure where that single-minded fixation came from. As we were sharing one of these sandwiches the other day, I asked the Chef, “Why are these so good?”
“Eggs,” he said, after a bite. “Eggs are good.”
That’s certainly true. And I do seem to remember that my brother, that summer, ate a lot of fried eggs and navel oranges. Eggs really are good.
But it had to be more than that. I think it came from Lisa Loopner.
You must remember Lisa Loopner. If you are anywhere near my age, you’ll remember Gilda Radner dressed in a blue cardigan sweater, glasses perpetually falling down her nose, and a big wad of hair gathered into a lospided ponytail on the top of her head. She adored Marvin Hamlisch, and often in those sketches in Saturday Night Live, she played “Heart and Soul” with such physical gusto that I worried she would fall off the piano bench. Oh Gilda Radner, you were my hero then, and you still are. So damned funny, and smart. Unafraid to be an assertive creative woman in a boy’s world. She, along with Lucille Ball, formed some deep part of me. They are still forming me.
But best of all was the relationship she had with Todd diLamuca, the erstwhile boyfriend who sat on her couch and teased her, the only physical affection between them the noogies he would spring on her. That image — the two of them awkwardly laughing and snorting, he never kissing her but twisting his fingers into the top of her head — was pretty much my vision of what my love life would be, back then. I was only eleven when those heyday years of the show appeared, so I didn’t know about the backstage shenanigans or the amount of drugs those actors had to have taken to stay awake through it all. Simply, I just watched those two nerdy characters fumble around each other, some real affection shining through, and no hope of ever growing up to be hip. And the reaching-puberty me, with the Albert Brooks hair and the thick glasses, thought, “Well, that’s going to be me. Maybe at least I’ll find my Todd.”
(Sometimes people talk to me about the love story I have with the Chef, and how they wish they had one too. And inside, I’m still thinking, “Don’t you know I’m really just Lisa Loopner?”)
Whenever I think of egg salad, I think of Lisa Loopner’s mother, who always arrived, at some point in the sketch, to say, “Now who would like some egg salad and Tang?”
Lisa Loopner: Oh, egg salad, my favorite!
Mrs. Loopner: Egg salad for everyone! You know, your father – God rest his soul – used to say “Happiness is a Norge full of Tang and egg salad.”
I never did develop a taste for Tang. But egg salad? Yes, please.
I don’t know what led me to think about these characters again, or why it is, late morning the other day, I turned to the Chef and said, “I’m going to go boil some eggs for later.” But I knew, without a doubt, that I needed egg salad for lunch.
Here’s a funny admission. I’ve never been entirely sure how to make good hard-boiled eggs. Do you boil then simmer? Boil then turn the water off? 17 minutes? 20? It seems such a rudimentary task that I should have known it by now. But I didn’t, until that morning.
“Hey honey, how do you make boiled eggs?”
He didn’t even look up from the paper. “Start with cold water, a splash of vinegar, six eggs. Bring it to a boil. Turn it off. Let it sit for 12 minutes. Run cold water over them. You’re done.”
Damned if he wasn’t right. The vinegar helps keep the shells from sticking. (I don’t why I hate, so much, the task of picking little particulates of egg shells from the boiled egg I want, but I do.) 12 minutes meant that the eggs were boiled, but not grey. Soon enough, I had eggs waiting in the refrigerator for an egg salad sandwich.
“Thanks, hon,” I told him, happy that I can be dopey in front of him, and admit I don’t know how to do something.
“Come here,” he said, and drew me to him on the couch. He cuddled me, put his hand on my belly to say hello to Little Bean. But for a moment, I swear, I thought he was going to give me a noogie instead.
EGG SALAD WITH CHIVE BLOSSOMS
I have to admit, I feel sort of silly even posting this as a recipe. Certainly, this isn’t complicated. But I like being reminded of these simple pleasures, and perhaps you will be too. Besides, sometimes the meals with five ingredients are the best.
Make sure you have great eggs for this. If you have your own chickens, you are set. Try to find truly free range eggs, produced locally, if you can. Not only because those eggs will be fresher, but also because they will taste better. (Crack a factory egg and one that came from a chicken allowed to roam — you’ll see the difference in the yolk.)
Of course, there are endless variations here. I happened upon chive blossoms because the spindly chives survived the winter on our back porch, and bloomed into lavender flowers this week. Spontaneously, I yanked some off and shredded them into my eggs. Oh, yum.
Finally, of course, the bread. This particular sandwich was cut from a loaf made by the good folks at Haley’s Corner Bakery, in nearby Kent. Even Marvin Hamlisch would want to write a song based on this sandwich bread. Sorry to those of you who don’t live here, but you might want to make the trek if you do. Good, good, good.
4 hard-boiled eggs
a spoonful of Dijon mustard
a glug of mayonnaise
pinch and one more of kosher salt and cracked black pepper
six chive stems and purple blossoms
Chop up the eggs, roughly. Put them in a bowl. Add everything else, in whatever portions feel right to you. (I can’t stand my egg salad too dry, but not gloppy wet either. You’ll find your happy medium.) Stir. Taste. Exclaim something loudly, to show your appreciation.
Put between slices of bread, in a happy mound. Cut the sandwich in half. Sit down to eat and sigh.