Eggs? Tofu? Vegetables? All of the above?
Peruse the average brunch menu in the year 2018, and you'll see the term “scramble” seems to lack a precise definition. The term often means eggs will be incorporated, but a scramble could also be tofu. Or vegetables. Sometimes, a scramble is not more than scrambled eggs. Then why, I ask, would the menu not simply say “scrambled eggs”? As a breakfast journalist, I look at a lot of local brunch menus—I search for unique dishes, cooking tricks, Instagram bait, and quality latte art. I’ll sometimes stumble upon a diamond in the rough, but more often than not I’m swimming in a sea of scrambles.
It makes sense; eggs are cheap when bought in bulk, and can be stretched with water or milk when beaten. Vegetable trimmings, limp greens, chunks of meat or cheese (perfectly edible, but not extremely pretty) can find a home in a scramble. With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, scrambled eggs are no longer the go-to quick fix. Tofu scrambles have begun to show up on menus more frequently—and not just at vegan places.
What is a scramble? “Basically gussied-up scrambled eggs,” says Associate Editor Kate Welsh. Welsh also notes that oftentimes the dish will be nothing more than “scrambled eggs with stuff in it.”
Senior Food and Drinks editor Kat Kinsman is more suspicious of the term. “Unless the word ‘egg’ is specifically deployed in the context of ‘scramble,’ I am going to assume that someone has busted up some tofu or steamed cauliflower into a curd-like texture and mixed it with vegetables in an attempt to emulate eggs.” Says Kinsman. “It inevitably leads to disappointment. Just say ‘tofu and vegetables,’ for goodness’ sake.”
Brooklyn Heights’s Colonie featured a Cacio e Pepe Scramble on their menu, which is a scramble as Welsh describes: scrambled eggs jazzed up with black pepper, mascarpone, and Parmesan. Is that a scramble, or is it scrambled eggs with cheese? I think the latter, but that doesn’t take anything away from the dish.
The Moroccan Scramble at Five Leaves in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is much more than eggs. Scrambled along with whites and yolks are spiced chickpeas, crushed avocado, and merguez sausage. Five Leaves seems to find these additions to be the distinction between whether something is a scramble or scrambled eggs (for example: their sandwich with eggs, cheddar, and tomato jam is a Scrambled Eggs Sandwich).
Good Enough to Eat on the Upper West Side in Manhattan sees larger-format additions to scrambled eggs as scrambles, but counts tofu as a scramble option as well. The restaurant has three egg scrambles on their menu: potatoes and onions (the Country Scramble); pepper jack cheese and salsa (the Mexican Scramble); red onion, tomatoes, and dill (the Special Scramble). Unsurprisingly, their Vegan Tofu Scramble has no eggs, just crumbled tofu sauteed with sesame-soy vegetables. Notably, they don’t call Migas, their scrambled eggs with tortillas chips, onions, peppers, and cheese a “Tex-Mex Scramble,” even though it would clearly fit in with their theme.