Slow Scramble

I made scrambled eggs for breakfast Saturday morning. Seemingly unremarkable, this classic breakfast is a favorite of mine. It doesn’t require a lot of fuss. Three ingredients, including salt. You need eggs, obviously. I had two. A generous knob of butter—I’ve learned from my mom that eggs taste better with butter. Four ingredients if you want black pepper, and I always want black pepper.

1. Gather the stuff: eggs, a lot of butter, and some salt.

Life is crazy. That’s a canned response I use when someone asks me how I am, or what I’ve been up to. I’ve had no time to reflect, no time to to sit with how life actually has been. So it’s just been crazy.

2. We’re going to make scrambled eggs in a pot, not a pan.

I learned to perfect scrambled eggs a few years ago. I was living in Daly City in my last year in the Bay area (rent was cheaper, the place was quieter), and I came to the conclusion that I had been taking egg-making for granted. Suddenly, just knowing how to crack a couple of eggs was not enough. I looked for a recipe, something that would explain scrambled eggs to me. I found a video of Jamie Oliver making scrambled eggs three ways: he used a frying pan, a pot, and a makeshift double boiler. This one uses the pot.

3. Stir the eggs really, really well in a bowl.

A slow scramble means these eggs take time. A joke I like telling my friend’s dad is that they take half an hour to make. Someone on the internet recently said something about how good eggs don’t need to take that long to cook. They were right, they don’t. But an overestimated half an hour at the stove can be meditative as hell. So much of my life lately has been about getting things done. Deadlines and deliverables. Planning and executing. Scheduling and adjusting. I’ve been doing a lot of working towards something and too little of just doing— without the responsibility of carrying something out for a tangible purpose. Add salt to the mixed eggs if you want. I like to salt my eggs after they’re done.

4. Cut off more butter than you think you need. Keep the pan on a low flame.

I suppose cooking eggs doesn’t necessarily yield time to reflect. You could, after all, be cooking eggs with the tangible purpose of, well, eating the eggs. It’s breakfast, not a philosophical inquiry. But I let it become one. I caught myself wanting to make the eggs so that I could eat them, and then decided to just focus on making the eggs while I was making the eggs. The distinction is acutely miniscule. Intellectually, I knew I was about to eat the damn eggs. But I stopped anticipating the meal, stood by the stove, and stirred for 9 minutes.

5. Pour the eggs into the melted butter (there should be a pool of it, really). Begin to stir.

My favorite part of making these eggs is when I start to see wisps of smoke rise out of the pot (maybe the egg’s water contents evaporating?), and the egg mixture—still so runny—starts to become a little less transparent. A cream starts to develop. It’s a subtle transformation, but you see it. It’s the kind of wonderful that reveals something you think you know (scrambled eggs) as something you didn’t know at all. That’s why I love making these. It makes so much more sense to make a quick egg. I could turn the stove up to a medium flame, maybe add some dairy if I wanted to bypass waiting for the eggs to cream. Scrambled eggs can take two minutes, tops. But the point is that you gain something else when you slow it down. The aroma, the slight thickening of eggs over time, the feeling of a wooden spatula tracing the bottom of a pan over and over again. You get to witness something. Maybe life.

6. Stir constantly and maintain a low fire. It’s going to take a while.

I was so engrossed in the act of stirring I forgot to put a slice of bread in the toaster. Had I been planning ahead, this maybe wouldn’t have happened. But it was almost enlivening, suddenly remembering the bread. I had forgotten what it felt like to forget. It animated the breakfast for me, as if toast with eggs wasn’t completely standard. Something about surrendering prior egg-making knowledge created an entirely different perspective to be in. Maybe making eggs can be a philosophical inquiry.

7. Eventually they curdle. Keep stirring.

As the eggs started to scramble, and as the bread toasted, the process had become something like jazz. Stirring quickly to avoid over-cooking, the 9–minute egg trance had already ended the second I turned off the flame, but it especially ended when I saw the toaster smoking. I cut off about a fourth of the salvageable toast and scraped off a layer of burnt crust. I think I said “Oh no,” out loud—disappointed at the toaster, or at myself. Hearing that was a hilarious illumination. I could still eat the toast, because I didn’t have a plan. The stakes were so low. I was just making eggs.

8. And eventually, they’re done. You can decide when.

Photo courtesy of Yasmeen Khaja

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