Soft Boiled Eggs

How can something so soft be so hard?

(originally posted on Facebook June 2019. Link at the bottom of this post)

Soft Boiled Eggs

It’s a science, an art form, a crap shoot, and most of all, exclusively European.

Growing up in Amsterdam with a mother who profoundly understood all of the above, and who had, over time, perfected the ritual of making soft boiled eggs, I had many years of egg-apprenticeship, which allowed me to woo more than a few American ladies with my European breakfast skills through the decades.

I have completely resigned to the reality that well made soft-boiled eggs simply don’t exist in the United States, and that this is totally fine

As an adult I personally gravitated towards scrambling my eggs. It is a quicker and much less trickier process than preparing them soft-boiled. But each time I visit with my mother, I gladly let her treat me to the perfect formula of hardened egg-white, and a yolk that is soft, yet creamy in substance. Add a pinch of salt and My mind instantly takes me back to my wonderful childhood in carefree Amsterdam.

I have completely resigned to the reality that well made soft-boiled eggs simply don’t exist in the United States, and that this is totally fine. Each culture should at least keep some culinary secrets within their borders. It is bad enough that Stroopwafels effectively cross-cultured into every corner deli in Brooklyn, I can easily wait for my soft-boiled eggs fix until I am back in Europe.

However, at times there are establishments, especially in America’s cosmopolitan neighborhoods, where you will find soft-boiled eggs on the menu.
When I first crossed the ocean to live in NYC, I tried some of these attempts at European science, but they always disappointed, so I simply gave up and enjoyed my unborn chickens scrambled instead. Until this morning I woke up early from jet lag, ventured into sunny Central Park where Hell’s Kitchen joggers and Upper Westside dog walkers enjoyed the silence before the storm that is Sunday tourism.

The egg-white still had the texture of semen, which I’m sure is an acquired taste, but not for the demographic of this particular venue.

In the middle of the park is a sidewalk cafe that prides itself in both name and menu to be extremely European, French in particular. I sat down because their coffee is decent, when the soft-boiled eggs on their menu caught my eye. It was at least 20 years since I last attempted a stint with this forbidden dish in this city, and the magic and serenity of this morning persuaded me to take a chance and order them.

The waiter did not flinch when I ordered, and he didn’t have a French accent, both of which I interpreted as hopeful signs of soft-boiled adequacy. The eggs came served in individual egg-holders, accompanied with a perfect size egg spoon. Was it possible that, with the arrival of Stroopwafels, the knowledge of cooking soft-boiled eggs had finally taken permanent hold on American soil?

I cracked open the first egg, and instantly the entire contents spilled out. The egg-white still had the texture of semen, which I’m sure is an acquired taste, but not for the demographic of this particular venue.
I hoped that this was just a single mishap, so I opened the second egg, which erupted with the same consistency.

...he apologized for a crime he neither committed nor understood

Disappointed and slightly annoyed that I should have known better, I called over the waiter and showed him the disaster of two virtually raw eggs splattered all over my kale leaves (because god forbid we serve anything without a side of kale these days). The waiter was not shocked, and I could understand why. He was American and had probably no idea what a soft-boiled egg ought to look like. Professional as he was, he apologized for a crime he neither committed nor understood, and promised to fix my problem and return.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall in that kitchen when the waiter presented the rejected eggs to the cooks. Would they at least see that clearly they had failed to deliver on their European promise? It took more than ten minutes for my new eggs to emerge, even though the first batch was served in thirty seconds.

And thus it is with sadness and acceptance that I announce that in 2019, America is still impenetrable to the art of making soft-boiled eggs. The second batch was just as liquid as the first, after which I didn’t have the heart nor the time to make them try again.

Every New Yorker knows that the city is full of restaurants where certain menu items should never actually be ordered. 24-hour diners in particular, with their fold-out laminated menu scrolls, are notorious for their items to avoid. If you don’t believe me, try ordering fish tacos or a carbonara at 4am. Let this message be a warning that soft-boiled eggs are still very much on the blacklist of foods to avoid, no matter how appealing the menu looks.

Perhaps I will try again in another 20 years, and until then I relish in the fact that my mother is still around to make them whenever I visit her, and that in the very worst case scenario I posses the knowledge to make them myself. On any other day, fried, poached or scrambled breakfasts will do just fine in this great city.

Link to original post and discussion: https://www.facebook.com/thescumfrog/posts/10162123874755193

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