Everything's better with butter
Credit: Photo by Rebecca Firkser

I've become a breakfast person, which is weird, but necessary for my gut health. It's a whole thing. I cook breakfast for myself six days a week (the other day I just drink coffee until lunch, and inevitably regret it), so it would stand to reason that I'd get all fetishy about the equipment and ingredients, right? Nah. I'm complacent about bettering my circumstances sometimes for reasons I'm trying to understand—hereditary Catholic guilt about owning nice things, a terror of brokeness, a raging case of impostor syndrome (who does she think she is with that pricey piece of cookware, INA GARTEN!?), and a constant low-level malaise that makes it hard to, like, bother. But sometimes good things happen by osmosis or accident, and two of them radically improved my breakfast life this year.

I live among butter fiends. Everyone on Team Extra Crispy is obsessed with excellent butter and it's seeped in. I grew up in a margarine home where real butter only happened when my grandmother visited, and I have always made it my business to scrape up every molecule of it during the bread course in a fancy restaurant (I'm classy like that). It hadn't really occurred to me to invest in butter beyond the store brand unless I was on vacation and had a little extra smuggling room in the suitcase. But I sit next to Margaret Eby who has become my butter muse, and who orchestrated a tasting of fancy butters that changed me on a cellular level. There's the workhorse stuff that I use for cooking, but for an eating butter, I've raised the bar. It's just a few bucks more to buy Vermont Cultured Salted butter or Ronnybrook or even Bordier if I'm feeling super-flexy. I don’t use a ton of it at any given time. Just a good, thick smear on grain-free bread, a dollop on warm sweet potatoes, or even an extra dab atop some slow-scrambled eggs brings an extra flicker of joy to a cold, dark morning. I'm a butter believer.

Credit: Photo by Kat Kinsman

Second: I found a repulsive, slimy, rusted-out cast-iron skillet in a shed and I brought it back to life with the force of my will and a lot of steel wool and salt. It took several days and a lot of grunting, but I brought that pan back from the dead, named it Thelma, and now I cook in it every day. My fried eggs have improved radically because I'm not afraid to fire it up super hot, and I find a thousand excuses to use it for everything from steak to reheating french fries. And then—I get to clean it. This has become part of my morning ritual that I actually look forward to. While it's still hot, I wipe out any residue (cranking the flame higher to flake it off if need be), then add new seasoning oil if the shine has subsided. Thelma only leaves my stovetop if I need to make room for other cookware. The more I use it, the better it gets. I think I found my 2019 mantra right there.