Cracking Out of the Shell

My friend Reuben asks, “Want to have coffee?”
I say, “Sure. And a sandwich?”
“Yes, of course. I was using coffee as an umbrella term.”
“I was using sandwiches as an umbrella term.”

April. Easter. Both my umbrellas popped open for their last laugh. Busted, both of them, like bird wings. One last little flap.  It’s a wet world in the spring, when we think about the hatching of new plans, and the power of sunlight, and…what color was my egg? And where was that nest again?

Where am I from? From Appleton. Cracked out of my egg in Appleton. Just after the winter solstice. My egg was covered in fresh snow.

Reuben has been thinking about his nest of origin, too, apparently.

Thinking about National Poetry Month-How I Got Here-Etc.
Reuben Jackson on Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blame my 10th grade homeroom teacher.

She spiked my imagination until

weekends formerly reserved

for bruising sandlot games

were spent with Baraka,

Sandburg and the like

(I read their prayers aloud

when the fog horn in my Father’s nose

was turned up to 10)

Poor imitations soon followed

Think of every awkward

guitar  hand

you have ever heard

fumbling with the buttons

on music’s blouse

A “literary” corn beef on white-

with lettuce-

A poetic junker.

I can still hear  my Father’s worried eyes.

“How is that boy going to earn a living”?

“He ain’t living here forever”.

But Sandberg took me West

last October.

I was already gone.



Egg salad is one of my favorite sandwich fillings, something for which I pant. My mother made it often, cutting the eggs into sharp-edged rectangles with an egg slicer, turning the eggs 90 degrees in a criss-cross cut. When I do it, the eggs are crushed up into uneven chunks with a wire pastry cutter. A little minced white onion, a bit of minced dill pickle, mayo, salt and pepper. Plenty. That’s my white canvas, to which dill, or capers, or any number of other embellishments can be added with happy results.

Adding extra yolks to egg salad has never occurred to me. The New York Times opened my eyes to that with a story about egg salad that included Eli Zabar’s egg salad recipe. Extra yolks! My son’s worst nightmare, a dream for me.

Mr. Zabar, the owner of E.A.T., Eli’s and the Vinegar Factory, likes the natural ratio of white to yolk in a poached egg, for example. But over all he is a yolk advocate, especially when it comes to egg salad sandwiches.

In 1975, he invented what he calls the platonic ideal of an egg salad sandwich. He did it by eliminating half the egg whites. During this period he was into simplicity, he said, and he wanted to get to the essential “egginess” of egg salad. 

Read more here: Debate in an Eggshell: Yolks vs. Whites

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Adapted from E.A.T.

8 large eggs

1/3 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

4 slices bread.

 1. Put the eggs in a medium pan and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes. Place pan in the sink under cold running water until the eggs are cool.

2. Peel the eggs. Remove the yolks from 4 of them (save the whites for another use). Chop the 4 yolks with the 4 remaining whole eggs.

3. In a medium bowl, gently and quickly mix the chopped eggs, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the dill, mix the egg salad once more, and make into sandwiches.

Yield: 2 sandwiches.

Eggs and origins are coloring my friend Miriam’s cooking this time of year, too. She has a breadless sandwich in mind, open-faced, egg salad piled on matzoh. So good to be reminded of the abundance in our kitchens by passing over the daily cornerstone of bread.

An Egg Salad for All Occasions

Thursday, April 14, 2011
By Miriam Rubin

“Miriam’s Kitchen” by Elizabeth Ehrlich

The memoir “Miriam’s Kitchen” is not about me. It’s not about my kitchen. But the author, Elizabeth Ehrlich, is my friend and we grew up together.

“Miriam’s Kitchen” is a beautifully written account of Elizabeth’s awakening spirituality and Judaism, and her acceptance of the Jewish dietary laws. It’s about her parents and grandparents, and about her in-laws, Holocaust survivors from Poland who moved to Israel, then the States. Elizabeth relates this moving memoir, published by Penguin in 1997, within the structure of a year in the Jewish calendar, as she learns recipes and history from her mother-in-law, Miriam.

As Elizabeth gleans the secrets to Miriam’s delicious food, she strengthens her ties to the past and to Jewish traditions, and creates a kosher life for herself and her family.

Read more here An Egg Salad for All Occasions

Miriam’s Egg Salad

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large sweet white onion, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 10-ounce package cremini or baby portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 eggs, hard-cooked and peeled
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Matzo, for serving

Heat oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes, until nearly tender. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until moisture evaporates and mushrooms and onions are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Place eggs in medium bowl and chop with curved-bladed knife, or put on cutting board and coarsely chop. Add mushroom mixture and mayonnaise and continue chopping until very fine, or, transfer to food processor and pulse only a few times, until finely chopped, but not pureed. Add dill and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with matzo.

Makes about 3 cups, 6 or more appetizer servings.

— Adapted from “The Good Egg: More than 200 Fresh Approaches from Soup to Dessert” by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

ALL occasions. To commemorate the day you pecked out into a bigger world from the wet world of an egg. To pile on sturdy bread along your continuum. Crack plenty of pepper over it. And to memorialize the long view after your nest has turned to dusty twigs and flown away in the wind.


6 responses to “Cracking Out of the Shell

  1. What a beautiful stream-of-consciousness post. How did you maintain such an ethereal thread from Baraka to Zabar’s? You got me to retreat from the pace of the usual media maelstrom so I could slow down to let it all sink in. Lovely Easter-appropos meditation on birth, death and Platonic egg salad (refreshingly free of ham, Peeps and chocolate bunnies).

  2. Thanks for the wonderful words, Liz. Really happy to be a slowing influence.

  3. I think this “poem” looks better sitting on your porch….:)

  4. Now that’s an umbrella statement. Everything looks better when one is sitting on a porch.

  5. Makes me want to go birding while eating an egg salad sandwich!

  6. Would a bird eat an egg salad sandwich? I know a pigeon would. I have seen pigeons pecking on chicken bones. Bleh.

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