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Monday, December 29, 2008

Egg salad

Egg salad
Copyright 2008, Jim Penny
Word count: 2105

Finding the eggs

You’re going to need some eggs. What can I say? It’s the prime ingredient. Where do you think the name comes from? To fetch the eggs, you head out to the garden in the cool of the morning, preferably while the coffee is making. If you wait for the coffee, you’ll want to take the cup with you, and that means you’ll need three hands, two to hold the coffee cup and the egg basket, the other to pick up the eggs.

The hens will have nested in the green beans. You’ll want to walk the rows slowly so as to not miss a hidden nest while you listen to the morning birds awakening as the crusted soil, still moist from the evening’s dew, crunches lightly under your bare feet.

In cooler weather, the hens will nest in the hen house out under the Crepe Myrtle tree in the back yard. You’ll want to wear shoes in the hen house even if the weather is still warm enough to make a quick scoot outside with bare feet. The reason is that you’ll have a substantial foot washing coming at you, way before a Sunday, and you’ll have to do it outside in the cold with the hose because if you track chicken poop back through the house, someone will want to talk with you.

You’ll also want to leave the coffee in the kitchen instead of taking it with you to the hen house. If you take a cup to the hen house, you’ll encounter that recurring problem with your third hand, which will motivate you to put the cup on a rafter. Now, in and of itself, putting the cup on a rafter is not so much a problem; rather, it’s that the rafter bears a protective coating of chicken poop, which will be fresh from the prior evening’s hen party, and the poop will crust over the bottom of the cup, leading, in turn, to unnecessary discussion when you return to the kitchen, regardless of how many eggs you have in the basket.

Another concern in the hen house is that in the spring and fall, you’ll find that snakes like to sleep under the hens. The snakes would probably sleep in the hen house in the summer except that the hens usually sleep in the beans then. Of course, you might wonder why the snakes don’t just move out to the garden with the chickens during the summer, and science has not yet figured the why behind your possible wonderment. Maybe the snakes don’t like beans. Maybe the snakes prefer to sleep under watermelons during the summer. It remains a mystery.

I suppose sleeping under the hen in the cool of the year makes a snake’s breakfast easier to find, and that makes sense if you consider how tough it must be to chase down a frog or mouse while crawling on your belly. The thing is that when you reach under the sleeping hen to pull out the eggs, you’ll find the snake, probably pull it out because you’re still sleepy from the lack of coffee that you left in the kitchen, drop the snake into the egg basket, and then return to the kitchen with a snake in the basket eating all the eggs you gathered. Bringing snakes into the kitchen, especially if their tummies are full of eggs, usually leads to unnecessary discussion.

Alternative egg location

Now if you don’t happen to have a flock of hens out in the backyard, you’ll have to find an alternative egg source. The FoodLion down the street makes such an alternative. I suppose other grocery stores carry eggs, but I rarely enter the competition. It doesn’t seem prudent, which means it might be a law or something. The eggs in FoodLion will be in the back left hand corner as you enter the store.

I usually make a loop around the store starting on the right hand corner as I enter. That way, I can pick up some mayo and Texas Pete along the way. If I’m feeling extravagant, the mayo will be Duke’s, but more likely, it’ll be the FoodLion brand. Regardless, it will not be lite may because lite mayo is an abomination. Do not get a knockoff of Texas Pete, and do not get less than a quart. You’ll need both items to make the egg salad, except under rare circumstances.

Noodle on to the back corner where the eggs are. I usually pick up two cartons when I’m there. You can get the dozen-sized cartons if you’re feeling cautious, but if you get the 18-count cartons, your egg stores will last longer, which will keep you out of the FoodLion longer, which will save you some money, as you’ll only have to return for more beer. Speaking of beer, you’ll find that a few steps beyond the eggs. Get some, probably one beer per egg, but no less than a 24-pack. The beer is an essential ingredient.

Returning home

Leave FoodLion after paying for the eggs, beer, and whatever else you picked up in there because leaving after paying leads to a lot less discussion. It’s very hard to leave and then pay in any form of pleasant manner. While you’re headed home do not flounce around with the bags no matter what is playing on the radio, not even Sweet Home, Alabama. Neil Young will remember with or without the flouncing. Not only will you break the eggs, but you’ll also shake up the beer. Opening freshly shaken beer will lead to discussion, especially if you do that in the house.

Back in the kitchen

Restrain from opening a beer. It’s been shaken somewhat during the trip from the store, and it’s also probably a little warm. Put the beer in the fridge. Warm American beer is an abomination. Put the eggs in the fridge except for one carton. You can put that carton on the counter. You can have a beer in a minute. I promise.

Search around in the cabinets until you find a large pot. I prefer an iron pot, cast iron, but the materials of the pot’s construction are not germane to making egg salad. However, I will point out here that cooking with anything except cast iron is an abomination. You might want to pause here, head down to a decent hardware store, and buy some cast iron pots and pans. I’ll wait until you return if necessary.

Put the eggs in the pot. Careful here; store bought eggs can crack if they drop more than a millimeter. Eggs from the backyard can drop an inch or so before cracking. Arrange the eggs on the sides, and then add cold water to fill the pot about half way. The eggs should be well covered. Put the pot on the stove. Turn the stove eye on high. Make sure the lid is on the pot.

Now you can have a beer. When the pot reaches a rolling boil, get your second beer. When that beer is gone, turn the heat down to a simmer, and fetch another beer. Turn the heat off when that beer is finished, and let the pot cool for two beers. Dip the eggs out of the pot, and let them cool for another beer. This last step is important because you probably did not buy enough beer to promote your recovery from handling hot eggs.

Once the eggs are cool, they need to be removed from the shells. This step is not to be skipped because shells do not enhance the salad, though they do make a crunchier sandwich. Mostly, the shell only holds the egg together. I usually hold the egg in one hand, and pop the blunt end on the counter. Store bought eggs crack open easily; the eggs from the back yard use Portland cement for the shells, and you’ll have to pop that blunt end hard, but not so hard as to promote discussion for making too much noise.

Peel the shell away from the egg, leaving as much egg intact as possible, but not sweating the loss of a little egg. The dogs will eat the shells later, and the lost egg will contribute, about an hour after the eating, to the spontaneous eau de pooch. Do not throw the shells to the chickens in the back yard. Doing that will insure that you’ll never have another egg until you replace the flock.

Rinse the peeled eggs, one by one, under a running faucet. Make sure the water is warm. If it’s too hot, it’ll burn your hands. If it’s too cold, you’ll get aches in your joints, and you probably didn’t buy enough beer to recover from either trauma. Leaving the water running will produce enough ambient sound that is loud enough to give you the excuse to say you didn’t hear the offer of discussion regarding the noise from the popping of the eggs against the counter.

Making the salad

After all that work, you’ll need a rest and a beer, and that’s fine, go ahead, but at some point you’ll be hungry and needing some egg salad. Here’s what you do to make a single serving of two sandwiches. If you have company, multiply accordingly. If you find you don’t have enough eggs to feed your assembled herd, order pizza. Domino’s is fine, but I generally use Papa John’s. I order online so that (1) I don’t have to deal with the language barrier, and (2) so I don’t have to use up my cash. While you’re at it, order enough to have leftovers, and while you’re waiting for the delivery, send someone for more beer. Neither pizza service will bring beer, which is a serious problem in North Carolina, but that’s another matter for another day.

By the way, I have just learned that Papa John’s contributes my pizza money to conservative religious groups. If that trips your trigger, go for it. If I confirm this alarming news, I will be changing my pizza business. Let’s hope my informant is ill-informed. The Papa John’s deliverymen are often cute, if somewhat slow to get here. Note: I have just confirmed that alarming news. ¡Adiós, Papa!

For me, two sandwiches make a single serving. That means I need three of the eggs, which I hope you put in the fridge after the peeling. If you didn’t throw out what you have, and start over with the trip to the FoodLion because you’re gonna need a lot more beer now. However, the mayo and Texas Pete are probably still OK.

To get started with making the salad, you have to smoosh the eggs. Some people do this with a store bought egg chopper. I find these hinged contraptions far too dangerous to keep in the house. When I nick my finger, there’ll be trouble when I need to grab the shotgun behind the door.

Eating the salad

I use a fork, generally. If a fork is not available, I use a knife, though doing so means I keep the 911-speeddial loaded on the phone. Somehow, by whatever means works safely for you, chunk and smoosh the boiled eggs beyond recognition. Get out some of the mayo that I hope you put in the fridge, and smoosh it all around in the smooshed eggs. Yes, it takes a whole lot of smooshing to make egg salad. It is permissible to sip the beer during this process.

With the mayo in, I have to make a decision. It’s either time for a splash of Texas Pete or a sprinkle of red pepper. Oh, I forgot to mention getting some red pepper at the FoodLion. This might be a good time to send someone back to the store for pepper and beer. Careful: Black pepper is an abomination unto the salad. The red pepper needs to be powdered cayenne, which you could scarf from those Papa John’s packets that I’ll never see again.

If I’m feeling fat, such as happens when I step out for an evening with my buds, or when I accidently try to wear last season’s 501s, I forego the mayo in favor of straight Texas Pete. Using Texas Pete makes the salad especially good when eaten for breakfast. Keep in mind that I rarely bother with the bread. Bread is just one more thing that I usually forget, and that would require another trip to FoodLion, which is unnecessary unless the beer is out. I just eat the salad with a spoon or fork, whichever comes out of the drawer first.

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