Incredible Edible Egg Salad
At the experienced age of 2 ½, I decided egg salad was an inedible and loathsome food. Scrambled, hard-boiled and even poached eggs were welcome on my childhood plate but in no way was egg salad to attempt an appearance. Certainly not after that first encounter.
This deep-seeded distaste occurred one innocuous Spring day at the hands of my new and notably perky babysitter. Diana was a pretty, young nursing student who, as my mother constantly remarked, had bravely given one of her kidneys to save her brother’s life. However heroic this may have been, I wondered how such an act made her adequately equipped to replace my mother as caregiver. My mother’s stomach was growing steadily by the day and it was Diana’s job to help me and my mother with the new baby. Now, one hears stories of children getting excited at the arrival of new babies, garbling on incoherently about their role as big brother or sister and helping mommy feed the baby, change the baby, and in all other respects just being parental kiss-asses. Whoever these kids were and whatever “helper” gene they inherited certainly did not get thrown my way. In fact, I can safely say I inherited the distinct yet severely underrated “unhelpful” gene from my father. I had no interest in the little sister soon to arrive and even less in Diana. I hated Diana. I hated her shiny black hair worn in a slick bun at the base of her neck and her incessant compulsion to play Barbie Dolls. Perhaps this doll-love was her attempt to evoke my sorely-lacking maternal instincts. Maybe it was all she could think of to keep me occupied. Whatever it was, there was simply no way for me to connect with a woman so deeply attached to anatomically-impossible plastic figurines.
Diana’s mother (let’s call her Mrs. Mush) lived in a yellow mobile home tucked into a graying mobile home park just off the freeway. I understood the idea of mobile homes as my maternal grandmother lived in one and I would, for years to come, be explaining, “Yes, but it was a very nice mobile home that was actually stationary and came with a deck and lake nearby.” Mrs. Mush's home, however, was nothing like my grandmother’s. I could see this the first, and only!, time Diana took me to visit. The cracking streets gave way to neon green, AstroTurf lawns and porches weighed down by innumerable tacky wind chimes and brightly-colors windmills. Mrs. Mush stood in her doorway, silvery screen door propped open with her big toe and said, “Hi there sweetie, are you hungry?” In a glimmer of hope, my overriding contempt for Diana and this terrifying field trip eased at the prospect of sustenance. It couldn’t be all bad if lunch was involved, I thought. Still, I could sense a shared tension between Mrs. Mush and Diana, as they shot furtive glances at each other that said, “Let’s just keep the child busy,” and “Do you think she knows what's really going on?” Years later I found out my mother was actually in labor and had asked Diana to “take me somewhere” so as not to scare me. She obviously had never been to Mrs. Mush's house.
Diana sat me down at a table with a deeply-scratched laminate top that popped up and out from the side of the trailer wall while Mrs. Mush prepared lunch. She whipped fiercely at something in a plastic bowl and spread the stiff contents between two slices of bread. "Here you go!" she said with a look of great satisfaction. "Eat up, honey." I looked at the food warily, as I honestly had no idea what lay before me. I had overheard Mrs. Mush say something about egg salad sandwich but knew this couldn't possibly be it. To start with, salad was green. Salad also included avocado, cucumber and tomatoes while a sandwich had bread. How could you possible mix the two? What sat before me was a gloopy, pate-like egg concoction with flecks of green relish rising to the surface as if desperate for one last breath of air. And yes indeed, this yellow goo was smooshed between two slices of spongy white bread. Diana and Mrs. Mush stared at me, eyes intent on seeing this "salad sandwich" go down my unwanting gullet. It was obvious even a hint of a tantrum would go unnoticed. I lifted the sandwich to my mouth, closed my eyes and took an overly-large bite. The artificial sweetness of Miracle Whip and relish hit the back of my throat with a resounding thud and I quickly choked back tears. My tonsils were in a fight for their life and not about to let this foreign invader pass, so I chewed the soft egg and dissolving Wonder bread slowly, hoping that in smaller amounts my throat might give way and just let it pass for heavens sake!
Once the first awful bite mercilessly descended into my stomach, I dropped the sandwich onto the plate and eased myself back in the chair, my stomach clenched tight, swearing to myself there was no way in hell I was going to take another bite. "All done," I squeaked out in my sweetest, almost-3-year-old voice. "Oh no sweetie, you have to finish your sandwich so you and Diana can go outside and play," Mrs. Mush retorted, eyes not wavering from mine. Outside...play...yes please! I'd play with 12 Barbies and even give them all new hair-dos if I could just get away from this food! "All done," I said again, this time with more edge to my voice. "Nope, not 'til you finish," Mrs. Mush smirked, Diana standing behind her for moral support and what I recognized as direct child intimidation. And with that, Mrs. Mush was placed right next to Diana on my "People I Hate Most" list. I hunkered down for the standoff and a stand off it was!, with the Mushmeister and tight-bunned Diana simultaneously urging, coercing and eventually yelling at me to eat the eggy slop. I sat at the pop-up table for what felt like forever, eyes focused on some far-offland where salads were made of lettuce and my mother didn't abandon me to Wonderbread-wielding psychopaths.
My extremely forceful babysitter and her equally adamant mother refused to ease up, even after my father arrived to take me home some 2 hours later. "She only ate one bite of her lunch!" the two women admonished in unison. My father simply shrugged at the maddened pair, not being one to worry over a child's nourishment, and followed me as I bolted to the car. Snuggled deep in the safety of my car seat I felt powerful waves of anger pour over me and, once home, proceeded to rant and rave at my mother about cruel Diana, Mrs. Mush and the assassination attempt upon my life via white breaded, egg and sweet-pickled purgatory. How could a mother abandon her child to such people? I questioned, continuing my tirade in squeaky, broken yelps until, exhausted and worn out, I finally relented and curled up in my mother's warm, outstretched arms.
I never saw Diana again after that day at Mrs. Mush's mobile home, though from time to time I'd imagine her hovering over hospital patients and forcing gooey, gelatinous egg salad into their slack, unresponsive mouths. And in these errant thoughts, they always ate it, grateful for the soft give of the egg, the sweetness of the mayonnaise, and thanked her for her unending kindness.
Incredible Edible Egg Salad Recipe
It was just last week (28 years to the month) that I once again ventured into the world of egg salad. My friend Jacqueline had made a gorgeous meal of braised duck legs, little gems salad and roasted asparagus topped with egg salad. Because of my previous forswearing of egg salad, it never occurred to me that it might be served on anything other than mealy white bread. Jacqueline used a bright olive oil and Dijon vinaigrette as the base then mixed in mashed hard-boiled egg yokes, cubed egg whites, and fresh herbs. The result was the exact opposite of my childhood trama. It was light, piquant, toothsome and seriously good! I took an immediate second helping and jotted down the recipe post haste.
4 organic eggs
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I really love Alter Eco's Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil for this as it provides a mellow sweetness.)
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 a teaspoon fresh thyme
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Fill a small pot half way with water and bring to boil. Add the eggs, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and run the eggs under cold water. Set aside.
Place the minced shallot, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine. Whisk in the olive oil and add the fresh herbs. Mix well. Sprinkle in a touch of salt and pepper, stir again and taste. Add a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, or salt if necessary.
Crack and peel the eggs, separating the whites from the yokes. Add the egg yokes to the bowl and mash with a spoon until smooth. Finely chop the egg whites, add them to the bowl, and stir to combine. Take one last taste for salt and pepper.
Serve over potatoes, lettuce leaves, grilled asparagus, braised leeks or even between two slices of bread. Enjoy!
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