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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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Simple scrambled eggs are the ultimate feel-better food

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Scrambled eggs are the ultimate comfort food: easy to make and easy to eat (especially with cheddar cheese).
Scrambled eggs are the ultimate comfort food: easy to make and easy to eat (especially with cheddar cheese). (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

For three and a half years, our family somehow eluded COVID-19. As if to make up for this glaring oversight, the virus finally swooped down and hooked us with its talons while we were in Bellingham recently to help our daughter get settled before starting her junior year at Western Washington University.

We’d planned a week’s vacation to get her set up in her new apartment. We spent our first day visiting with a family friend. The next day, the friend phoned to say she’d tested positive for COVID-19. The day after that, I got sick. Then my husband got sick. Our daughter mercifully never got sick but endured several lonely days while we holed up at our friend’s house, feverishly mourning what should have been our final happy hours with our daughter.

On our last morning in Bellingham, the three of us sat outside while a light sprinkle of rain decorated the ground with polka dots. Our faces were half obscured with masks and we stayed at a distance from one another, which was such a torture. I longed to hug my daughter and see her face but was forced to content myself with just her eyes. My husband and I each said a few words to launch her into this new chapter of her life. I watched a tear escape from the corner of my husband’s eye and catch the light as it fell past his black mask. As for my own tears, there were too many to count, and I collected a puddle. Just as we said our final goodbyes, a tremendous wind kicked up and shook the trees overhead. The whooshing was momentarily deafening, and I could only think it was the last vestiges of our daughter’s childhood being blown away. Either that, or it was the sound of my heart breaking from a surfeit of simultaneous joy and sorrow.

On the drive home, I kept having the most unusual sensation of weightlessness in my arms. I could see them in front of me, firmly gripping the steering wheel, but I felt that they were drifting somewhere above my head, light as a feather and unaffected by gravity. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my baby daughter’s weight in my arms. I used to carry her around the house and think, “She’s the perfect weight and my arms were made to hold her.” Now my arms have nothing to hold and so these useless appendages might as well float away.

Of course, my arms still have plenty to do. There’s still laundry and cleaning and cooking (and eating). There’s still my yard and garden. There’s always lots of pruning and weeding for my arms out there! There are friends to be hugged and there are stories that must be written. I have a kayak to paddle and rivers and lakes to swim in. And there are all the things that my arms haven’t yet learned to do, like weave a rug or make stained glass or refinish furniture or play the harp or dance the tango. I don’t think motherhood is the only thing I can do or the only thing I’m good at. (It’s certainly not the only thing I’m bad at!) But being my daughter’s mother suited me in a way that I never anticipated. My arms eagerly bent to the work of raising her.

Since I’ve been home, I haven’t had much appetite. Food just isn’t that interesting to me. I’m not sure if it’s a lingering symptom of the coronavirus or an indication of my larger malaise. Fortunately, my dear friend Angela left a present on my doorstep: a dozen multicolored eggs from her prolific chickens and four chocolate chip brownies. I did the only sane thing under the circumstances and made a plateful of scrambled eggs and then washed them down with a brownie. Angela must have magic chickens because those eggs tasted so good. And maybe brownies aren’t magic, but they exist and that’s magic enough.

When I was a kid and had some emotional upheaval or other, my mother always thought that if I got a little protein inside me, maybe I’d calm down. She’d whip up a few scrambled eggs and encourage me to eat them first and then maybe I could stop crying long enough to make sense of my feelings. Later on, I resented this practice because it reduced my unruly emotions to a mere nutritional imbalance and set me up for a lifetime of eating when upset. (Honestly, I’d likely have developed that habit no matter what.) But now I think she made scrambled eggs because it upset her to see me upset and she wanted to feel like she could do something, anything, to help.

However the habit originated, scrambled eggs are the No. 1 most comforting food I know. Eggs are elemental: the beginning of life, pure potential, and a symbol of the biological processes that precede motherhood. Crack a couple of chicken eggs open and revel in the sunny yolks. Mix them vigorously with salt, pepper and a little milk, heat it up in a skillet and you’ve got one of the most instantly satisfying meals known to humankind. Melt cheddar cheese over the warm eggs and you’ll be turning your frown upside down in no time. Maybe my mom was onto something.

I’m sure you don’t need a recipe for scrambled eggs because you have your own beloved version. But a quick survey of the internet shows that, yes, people like to read about how other people make scrambled eggs. The accompanying recipe is my way, which is really my mom’s way. So I guess you could say that she’s still comforting me with scrambled eggs. As for my daughter, I’ll make her scrambled eggs when she comes home for Thanksgiving, and then I’ll sit down and ask her to tell me everything. She’ll offer up the abridged version and I’ll listen with rapt attention to every detail because I know that this new stage of motherhood isn’t about the work I do with my arms, but with my ears and my heart.

Scrambled Eggs

Serves 1

2 eggs

3 dashes salt

3 dashes pepper

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 pat butter

2 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

Melt butter in skillet on medium-high. Whisk eggs with salt, pepper and milk. Pour into hot pan. Wait 30 seconds for eggs to cook on the bottom, then use a wooden spoon to gently lift and stir eggs until cooked through but still slightly moist. Don’t overstir but allow large curds to form (but don’t wait too long between stirring, either, or the eggs will burn). When eggs are cooked through but still slightly moist, sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese. Remove from heat; cover pan with lid and wait 1 minute. Scoop eggs onto a plate and serve with hot buttered toast.