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William Lashner's PI-Writing Blog

Humpty Dumpty

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

As I made my breakfast this morning, I was thinking about the greatest eggs in all of literature.  For me there are two eggs I've always remembered, two eggs that will live with me for as long as I crack a shell and fry up something to place gently over the potatoes.

Number one all time is from KING RAT by James Clavel, a very good book with a brilliant piece of eggmanship.  This scene takes place in a POW camp where all the inmates are crazy with hunger except for King Rat, who has plenty of food, including this repast he is cooking to sway a new inmate to the dark side.  Notice the sound, the scent, the sizzle.  I cook my over-easy eggs on a very high temp now because of this passage:
The King broke the eggs neatly and dropped them into the heated oil.  The yolk was rich-gold and its circling jelly sputtered and hissed against the heat and began to set and all at once the sizzle filled the hut.  It filled the minds and filled the hearts and made the juices flow.  But no one said anything or did anything.  Except Tex.  He forced himself up and walked out of the hut. . . . . “Jesus H. Christ,” Byron Jones III said to no one, choked.  “I wish it would rain.”  No one answered.  For no one heard anything except the crackle and the hiss.  The King too was concentrating.  Over the frypan.  He prided himself that no one could cook an egg better than he.  To him a fried egg had to be cooked with an artist’s eyes, and quickly – yet not too fast.”
My second favorite egg passage takes place in Hemingway's GARDEN OF EDEN. Hemingway was always good with food, but this passage was like a revelation.  "Oh," I said first time I read it, "so that is how they should be eaten."  It's actually good, too, though I think you need to eat them at that very cafe, at that very time of day, while in the midst of a similar type love affair:
He loved her very much and everything about her and he went to sleep thinking about her cheek against his lips and how the next day they would both be darker from the sun and how dark can she become, he thought, and how dark will she ever really be?

"You know I haven't done anything bad to us. I had to do it. You know that."

Be careful, he said to himself, it is all very well for you to write simply and the simpler the better. But do not start to think so damned simply. Know how complicated it is and then state it simply.

At the cafe he found the morning paper and the Paris papers of the day before and had his coffee and milk and the Bayonne ham with a big beautifully fresh egg that he ground coarse pepper over sparsely and spread a little mustard on before he broke the yolk.


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