The Melodramatic Omelet
©2017 Hal Padgett
—My dismay with Nancie’s words is real; all else is baloney—
The topic at hand in the foodie.net chat room was “preparing sirloin for the grill,” but the only thing being grilled was me (foodGod51): “hey foodkook51 i wanna cu GRILLIN IN HELL!!!!!!!!!!!”
I would as soon have chopped off my two typing fingers rather than back down from those semi-literate dullards who proclaim Kraft Italian Dressing as the one true marinade. But as I prepared to assume alpha chef dominance, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know the specific meaning of “sirloin.” How could such a thing happen—to me of all people?
My trembling hands recoiled in panic from the keyboard. I grabbed the dictionary in search of the “S” section, but randomly landed in the “M”s. Before my eyes appeared the word “metrorrhagia.” It is “non-menstrual bleeding from the uterus.” After a prolonged wince, it occurred to me that I’d run across one of those uncommon words with a spelling, pronunciation, and definition every bit the horrible match for the actual physical manifestation. But it was fresh, and it had staying power—unlike “diarrhea,” which ultimately had been robbed of its once-gruesome power by indoor plumbing, Imodium AD, and the desensitizing bombardment of YouTube raunch.
I finally clawed my way to the “S” section, but hit another detour with “sinusoidal projection.” Naturally that would be one of those mid-winter, sneeze-driven, foot-long green snakes of mucus shooting out of a nostril (most likely a man’s). But no, a sinusoidal projection is “an equal-area map projection showing the entire surface of the earth with all lines of latitude as straight lines and all lines of longitude as curved lines.” I might have learned that in eighth-gradegeography—had I paid attention, instead of sitting in the back row, sneakily sketching Dick Butkus decapitating Bart Starr, or Hans the Hapless Wehrmacht Guy burning alive in the twisted wreckage of his Tiger tank.
Of course it didn’t take long before I had either forgotten about or lost interest in “sirloin.” I decided to log off from the evolutionary backsliding of the internet and began to thumb through a Thai cookbook, finally settling on a recipe in the Seafood section, plah goong (shrimp with green chilies and lime). I vowed to cook it that night—until I closely read the preferred methods of preparation.
The author—the somewhat famous Nancie McDermott—obviously had difficulty dealing in reality: “Place chilies under the flat side of a cleaver or chef ’s knife blade and crush them gently [yes, Nancie. Let’s kill them!... ever so tenderly], pressing with the heel of your hand until they split open just enough to reveal their seeds [and, if we’re lucky, Nancie, they’ll reveal their innermost secrets as well] and release their perfume.” [Did she mean the delight-ful evanescence of acidic vapors from the chilies that can make you feel like some prankster switched out battery acid for your Murine?]
There could be no forgiveness for her “coax chunks of shallot and lemongrass apart into smaller sections.” I suppose you couldn’t very well promise these chunks a slow and miserable death for failure to separate. That would be a threat, as opposed to coaxing. Perhaps the best way to coax the shallots and lemongrass to split up would be to wave a chocolate chip cookie or pot brownie in front of them, then plead your case.
It makes me dizzy just to ponder how many hours this lunatic must set aside for the creation of an omelet—or how she might suggest going about it:
1. Approach the refrigerator, then pull the door toward you, using only enough force to break the kiss of the door’s rubber seal from the rubber seal of the main body. Whisper a prayer for these star-crossed lovers as you weep at the sound of their breaking hearts.
2. Locate Styrofoam carton containing eggs. Even the lightest touch should produce a telltale squeak. Give a giggle and sheepishly say, “’Twasn’t me.” Grasp and remove carton, then place gently onto a flat surface. So far so good—heed the palpitations of your heart.
3. Open carton, reach inside, and carefully remove an egg. Place egg on an additional flat surface, gently, so as not to crack the shell. Remember to be patient. This is a new experience for them. They probably miss their mommies. A few kind words might go a long way. Repeat twice.
4. Close lid—resisting the urge to let the Styrofoam squeak of forced closure curdle your blood—then transfer carton back inside refrigerator. Close refrigerator door. Pause momentarily in self-appreciation for having reunited lost lovers. Don’t be embarrassed by their snuggling.
5. With the eggs safely at rest and much more at ease now due to your hospitable nature, locate and retrieve a bowl large enough to accommodate the collective albumen and yolks of six-to-eight jumbo eggs. (Claustrophobia will only induce panic.)
6. Gently grasp one egg at a time and, with a slight downward motion exercising more finesse than brute force, tap it against the lip of bowl. A slight fissure should be plainly visible along one side of the shell. Resist the urge to cry as you use both thumbs to slowly encourage fissure to expand into the heartbreak of full rupture, then calmly allow the yolk and albumen to softly plunge into bowl (and pray you don’t spot a bloody cicatricle—a doubled-up pre-natal tragedy). Blow nose and wipe eyes if necessary. Repeat twice.
7. The eggs now require a vigorous whisking. Whisk briskly, in rapid, tight circles. Be sure to demonstrate some basic dignity by taking care not to slosh egg matter over the sides of bowl.
8. Your eggs are now vigorously whisked and seem to be smiling as they prepare to assume full and fluffy responsibility as the foundation for your omelet. Before you relocate them to a place of deadly heat, extend them the courtesy of a last wish.
Nancy and I do agree on one thing: 'tis better to be a human being first, a chef second.