Photo by Mathia Coco via Getty Images

Wreck 'em

Kat Kinsman
September 12, 2018

It's fine to get fussy with your scrambled eggs sometimes—therapeutic, even. If I've got the time and wherewithal, I'll happily spend upward of half an hour dragging my spoon or spatula in a lazy spiral through the thickening, butter-rich curds as I fuss the skillet on and off a barely-there flame. My reward is a near-obscenely lush golden mound of egg to spoon like jam onto slivers of toast and savor all smugly while deluding myself that I'm the sort of adult who can pull off this sort of lifestyle porn on the regular. It's bullshit and I know it and frankly, plenty of the time I just want crappy, fast scrambled eggs.

I wouldn't serve them to company, and probably not even to my husband, who isn't especially fussy about egg texture. They're terribly careless—just beaten with a fork, not mixed with anything, dashed into a too-hot pan with a pat of butter, and assaulted with a wooden spoon until they're just sort of hard and wrinkled. Almost inevitably, there's a little film of brown crust left over in the pan, and I will take pains to scrape that out and dust it atop the atop the egg pile with a rude pinch of salt. These are eggs you could pick up and eat with your fingers if you care to, and sometimes I do, but more often lately, I'll take a potato chip between the thumb and forefingers of each hand and use them in tandem to shovel the hard curds onto one of these, lift it to my mouth, and bite. Bread is off the menu for me these days, so I have to make my own bliss.

What's more, I enjoy these slapdash eggs. Sure, my mother made scrambled eggs for us growing up and they were fine, but she had a strange habit, likely instilled by a high school home-ec teacher, of plopping vinegar and milk into the mix, giving the eggs a slightly off-putting funk that I assumed was just par for the course. Sometimes there were strips of American cheese melted on top, and that improved matters slightly, but I said thank you and ate them because I'm not a monster.

But then I went to summer camp. Camp food, save for anything fire-and-stick-cooked, is notoriously mediocre. The scrambled eggs there were as well, probably, but I could not get enough of them. I assume they were powdered or otherwise prefabricated because seriously, in the early 1980s, no one was putting much stock in the palates of elementary school-aged Catholic summer campers, but there was an unholy mess of us to feed every morning for a couple of weeks. The mounds of toaster waffles and gristly sausages had their appeal, sure, as did the cunning, single-serve boxes of the frosted cereals I was disallowed at home, but it was the steam tubs of pale, dry, scorched scrambled eggs that captured my fancy.

For one thing, it was a self-serve cafeteria-style line where a gawky, scab-kneed, sleepy-eyed kid could grab a ladle and heap as much onto her tray as she cared to, and even go back for seconds after everyone else had been served. It was hardscrabble out there on the archery range, woods, and softball field, and I knew if I didn't fuel up, I'd fade by mid-morning and either get left behind on a trail, or get dragged under the scum by the alligator we all swore lived in the depths of the lake. (There are no wild alligators prowling Northern Kentucky. Plenty of snakes, for damn sure, though.) Plus, I just loved them in their uniformly squishy blandness. Sometimes it's not about sensory excitement or delicate craft—it's about having plenty of predictable comfort, especially when you're a little bit scared and fragile. Camp was rough sometimes. The other girls weren't always nice, and the bunk smelled funny, and the bathroom was a terrifying sludge through the muddy dark, and I've always been really terrible at softball. No matter what happened—even the morning after I got shot in the toe by a BB gun, or when the meanest girl accused me of having wet the bed (it was water from this weird candle craft and why am I explaining myself to you, jeez?!)—there were plentiful heaps of kitchen sponge-like eggs to fill me up.

And I guess I packed up the habit and took it home with me, dragging it through the decades with me. I don't make troughs of them (though the notion has occurred to me), just enough to get me through the toughest morning. And possibly feed the alligators.

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