Flipping An Over Easy Egg

One of the reasons cooking remains endlessly intriguing to me is how it combines so many psychological, mental, and physical skills all into one lifelong discipline.

Even the simplest cooking tasks can be complex, rich experiences. I've written before about how cutting up vegetables and doing recipe pre-prep can be a deeply calming, meditative experience. Particularly when somebody else does it for me.

Most of the cooking tasks we'd think of as relatively easy (like sauteing vegetables, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, frosting a homemade cake and so on) are modest, humble tasks. They don't require skill so much as patience, a commodity increasingly in short supply in the modern era.

Patience. That's the key ingredient that makes it possible for these tasks to calm and relax us.

And finally, there are cooking tasks that, far from being humble, require both practice, skill and a weird overconfidence to do successfully. Think flipping an over easy egg, flipping an omelet or deftly dropping an egg into boiling water to be poached.

I'm not much of an egg poacher or an omelet flipper, those tasks literally intimidate me. I do, however, cook myself two over easy eggs for breakfast nearly every day. With over easy eggs, you have to know at what point a partially fried egg is ready to be flipped. Wait too long and the yolks are overcooked. Do it too soon and the eggs innards run all over the pan. Do it too slow or too fast and the yolk breaks, which ruins everything.

So when that moment comes you cannot be fearful. The egg can feel your fear. Which is why you have to perform these kinds of tasks confidently--or not at all.

Readers, what do you think? In your cooking lives, what kinds of tasks do you consider difficult, even intimidating? And which tasks are calm and relaxing to you? Share your thoughts below!

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chacha1 said...

I fret about turning fish.
And I used to hate cutting up squash. Then a friend gave me a vintage Chinese cleaver sharpened to a hair-splitting edge. Now I dismember squash with great satisfaction.
Sometimes it's all about the tools. :-)

Lauren said...

Coconuts! And I never manage to do scallops justice. Nor have I ever mastered egg poaching. Which is sad, since it's not part of the food culture where I live so I can't order one in a restaurant, either.
Chacha, there's a free knife skills class on Craftsy. The guy breaks down a butternut like it's nothing. I've tried it and it works. The big round kinds I still start with the hatchet, though.

Sally said...

I used to be unable to poach eggs until I found both Mark Bittman's and Michael Ruhlman's instructions. They're similar, but slightly different and both work all the time.

Mark Bittman's method: http://markbittman.com/how-to-make-poached-eggs/#more-176004338

Michael Ruhlman's method:http://ruhlman.com/2011/02/egg-poaching/ (I usually let the eggs cook for about 3 minutes). The perforated spoon is nice but not necessary.