Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

How to make Ghastly Eggs from her 'Single Girl's Cookbook'

Lissa Townsend Rodgers
August 06, 2018

When Sex and the Single Girl came out in 1962, women were still largely expected to maintain their chaisity and believe that getting a Mrs. was more important than an B.A. or M.S. But Helen Gurley Brown’s book encouraged young women to have careers, not just jobs, and to date for fun, rather than for a ring. It covered everything from work and dating advice to home decor and makeup tips. 

Brown had been an advertising copywriter and shared her tricks in a breezy, snappy style. She carried on in that vein for several more books, including Sex and the Office and Sex and the New Single Girl, but perhaps none was more a relic of its time than Helen Gurley Brown's Single Girl's Cookbook, released in 1969. There are recipes for Stuffed Pears Italiano and Sardine Toast Strips—as well as more useful ones like Chicken Paprikash and Asparagus with Parmesan. Like many dishes of the era, the ingredient lists liberally deploy canned soup, maraschino cherries, and mayonnaise.

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Chapter titles include “Blender Breakfasts” and “Stuff Them with Turkey,” and there are sections on stocking your pantry and throwing a cocktail party. But the centerpiece is “Food for the Affair,” phases I-IV, taking you from “You’re Not Lovers Yet” to “You’re in Love” to “You Must Win Him Back” to “Enough Already!” In the “Enough Already!” section is Ghastly Eggs, which Brown describes as a “truly revolting breakfast” that's guaranteed to drive unwanted paramours away for good. The recipe is as follows:    

The Coup de Grace

“Suppose he’s come back to you one last time and you have foolishly agreed to let him spend the night […] Morning finds you not only with the thrill not recaptured but slightly sick at your stomach. Why did you let him back into your life once you had him out? It’s time for Ghastly Eggs. Ghastly Eggs are purple. No man confronted with a purple egg in the morning—particularly if he’s had anything to drink the night before— is apt to return to your house for more of anything.

Ghastly Eggs
2 servings

3 tablespoons butter
1 medium-sized onion, minced
2 cups Burgundy wine
1 whole clove
1 bay leaf
4 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
4 slices of buttered toast

Use a pan big enough to poach 4 eggs. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in it and saute onion until pale gold, about 5 minutes. Add wine, a little salt and pepper, the clove and bay leaf; let mixture simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix remaining 1 tablespoon butter with the flour to make paste (beurre manie); set aside.

Turn heat as low as possible and slip eggs into the liquid. Let poach for 3 to 4 minutes. While they poach, make the toast.

Remove eggs gently and lay them on the toast on plates. Slide plates into a  low oven to keep warm. Pour poaching liquid through a sieve into a clean saucepan Add beurre manie, a little at a time, and let simmer until slightly thickened. Pour over the eggs and serve. Good bye, dear, and amen!

P.S. A few drops of kitchen bouquet will take the horrid purple look away from the sauce if you aren't trying to revolt anybody and just want something unusual and delicious for breakfast.

OK, so first of all, Burgundy. To find a full-on proper French burgundy was going to run me at least $40 bucks, and I mean, I’m cooking eggs in it. So I settled on a nice California pinot noir. If this all goes as far south as it’s likely to, it's better have a pleasant glass of wine ready.

Photo by Lissa Townsend Rogers

Then there’s the matter of poaching. I like a poached egg. I have a lovely vintage pan that can poach four eggs at once under a little aluminum pagoda, no fuss, no muss. But trying to poach four simultaneously, floating free in a pan full of wine, butter and onions… this could become more ghastly than we thought.

I decided to halve the recipe, since I was cooking for one and also so I could have a do-over if it went really poorly. Sauteeing the onion in butter, then adding the red wine, bay leaf, and clove to simmer made me slightly sad: I felt like I was about to defile the beginnings of a lovely pasta sauce. Then, with great trepidation, I slid in egg #1, which coalesced nicely. Egg #2 did the same. The bay leaf somehow lined up to keep them separate and the diced onion seemed to prevent the whites from spreading. I toasted the bread and slipped the eggs on top, then reduced the sauce and poured it over.

Here’s my main issue with the concept of Ghastly Eggs ending a relationship: Ghastly eggs are definitely not fast n’ easy and they dirty over six pots, pans, and utensils. The amount of time and effort one puts into breakfast should be directly proportional to the amount one cares about the person they're making breakfast for. I cannot help but feel that the 40 minutes that I spent and dish rack’s worth of spatulas and forks and spoons I used in the process of making Ghastly Eggs would indicate a certain emotional commitment. And Ghastly Eggs are actually pretty tasty. If I really wanted him to leave and never come back, I'd make him Troll Toast

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