I make a lot of eggs on Saturday mornings. I feed the multitudes like Jesus. But I don’t make fish. I don’t have a magic basket that keeps popping up with the fishes. And no one will build a church in my honor.
I make eggs. My pan produces scrambled, scrambled with cheese, scrambled with cheese and jalapenos, over easy, and sunny side up. Nothing more.
I start with Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter. Because other butter is pure shit. I butter the living hell out of the pan. Evenly coated. There’s never too much butter. No such thing. I get that pan nice and hot. Then I put in the eggs. My eggs come out fantastic. However I make them.
After I go a few rounds, easily making over-easy, I begin building up an accumulation of butter. Leftover Kerrygold, ready to make more magic. Bubbling, yearning, Put me back in the game, Coach! I have so much more flavor yet!
Of course by then, being heated and reheated, the butter gets brown. That’s why I try to save the final round of cooking for my eggs. Because kids (particularly the especially disagreeable six year-old Ben) tend to notice if their scrambled eggs aren’t exactly yellow. The expected shade of yellow. It doesn’t matter if their breakfast is delicious. Before a taste inspection can happen, a visual appraisal must take place. If they think you’re giving them an inferior meal, they will make you scrape those eggs from the plate into the trash while they watch. Don’t even try to pull that shit on me again, Dad!
The inevitable happened one Saturday. Ben put in a late order. With the butter already so brown. I was approaching an unavoidable dilemma. I didn’t want to waste the butter but I also wanted to feed my son. I gambled. Instead of cutting my losses and just starting over with fresh butter–and a guaranteed win–I doubled down. I insisted on using the brown butter for his scrambled eggs and risked tossing two cooked eggs into the trash in addition to the butter. I was in full swing and mad with butter. It was crazy. I know. But no one could stop me.
I didn’t have much time to etch out a plan. While the fresh eggs were cooking, I was forced to shift from Daddy to Marketing Genius. It’s something I can do easily. I don’t even need to wear the cape. But I do anyway. It’s a cape with a dragon on it. And skulls. With glow-in-the-dark eye sockets.
I had one play to make. The task before me was to set his expectations. So that when he got the eggs that didn’t look like all the other eggs he’s ever eaten, he wouldn’t see something wrong, he would see something special.
The key to setting expectations is to find the right name. It’s an art born of strategy. And the strategy is the easy part. Knowing what to do is a different kettle of fish from how to do it. I don’t even know what a kettle of fish has to do with anything. Why do we keep these antiquated metaphors around? I didn’t have the time to waste with antiquated metaphors!
I had to dig deep. And fast. The eggs were almost done to perfection. Think, damn you! Names of recipes! Words that entice and indicate yummy! I’m a big fan of southern cooking. Particularly dishes from the Louisiana bayou. If I lived in New Orleans, I would weigh 400 pounds. Easy. In Nawlins, dishes are routinely labeled “blackened” or “dirty.” Like “blackened chicken in dirty rice.” And people gobble that up. When it came time to name my dish, I borrowed from cajun cooking.
The eggs were done. On the plate. I added the ketchup garnish. They looked muddy, smoky. Fluffy little thunderclouds ready to unleash a flavor storm. I was sure that Ben would reject them because the eggs looked like they were dropped on the floor.
So as I set the plate before him, like an offering to a god, I proudly announced, “You get to eat eggs I made with a very special recipe! I call them ‘Daddy’s Dirty Eggs!'” But I heard what I was saying and even I was horrified and I scrambled to edit, “I mean, these are special eggs I made with a special recipe that uses Daddy’s Dirty Butter!” Oh shit it’s getting worse. My cape fluttered. My genius was draining. “I mean Daddy’s Special Creamy Butter!” No this is all wrong! My stomach clenched. I couldn’t believe the words I was speaking to my son. With my brain in full flight, I barked, “Here are your special yum-yum eggs with yummy butter!” I threw the plate and backed away.
Why didn’t I say ‘caramelized’?! Why didn’t I say ‘twice-cooked’ or ‘super-scrambled’ or some shit? Dirty butter?? Yum-yum eggs??
It didn’t matter, Ben didn’t hear me. He was watching Adventures with Tip & Oh. Netflix owned him. He wasn’t even looking at the food. He was just shoveling it in. But that presented a new problem. I needed him to look at what he was eating. I needed him to know that eggs that looked like that were delicious. If he accepted them this time, he’d eat them without any speeches the next time. A new mission surfaced and short-circuited my embarrassment.
“Hey Ben. You like those eggs? Are they good?”
“Look at the eggs, Ben. See those eggs?”
He was just shoveling in more. The eggs were disappearing fast.
“Ben, look at your Dad’s dirty eggs! You like those eggs? Those are made with Daddy’s dirty butter! Check ’em out. Look! Look at Daddy’s dirty eggs! Yummy dirty eggs!”
“Really Jeff?” Jill was on the stairs. The last to come down in the morning. Awake and annoyed. “Real nice.”
“You always take things too far,” disgusted. With those last words on the matter, Jill set the tone for the day.
“Can I have water with a lot of ice?” Ben asked, behind a clean plate. Eggs and ketchup in crumbs and smears. Netflix in his eyes.
I slipped out of my cape. Bested and unworthy. “I’ll get you your water.”
“With a lot of ice.”
“All of the ice.”