Hating eggs wasn’t just something I did, it was part of who I was. I had always hated eggs, with implacable utterness. No matter how they were made, what they were served with, how you disguised them, so far as I was concerned every egg was just a retch waiting to crawl up my throat. If I realized mid-sandwich that there were diced hard-boileds in the chicken salad, I’d have to lie down, so ill it made me. I was convinced it was an authentic allergy if not something much worse. In so many ways I had no idea who I was as a person, but at least I knew with perfect clarity that I did not eat eggs.
Then I went to college and things got fluxxy. I deliberately picked a school where I’d have no carry-over from my former life; I was free to shed old masks and habits, to be myself, whomever that might be. I made new friends, tried new things, pushed my limits in a range of ways. Of course… eggs remained anathema. Some things aren’t subject to negotiation.
Ah, but negotiation is only one way agreements change. I had yet to absorb the intricacies of force majeure. That’s what you invoke when an event beyond the control of the parties changes the very landscape of agreed reality. Acts of God, rioting mobs, criminal acts by agents unknown… any of these can cancel a contract. And of course I am obliged to mention the Trojan example.
Not that Trojan you randy devil, I mean like Troy. But not that Troy, not the jewel of Asia Minor, destroyed in legend for hubris and by hubris. My Troy’s went dark only around 1990 or so. During my time in Philly it was still going strong enough to knock me out of my rut.
Troy’s was the quintessential greasy spoon. You could get a combo-plate of fat and starch there from dawn till after the bars closed, with a beer for every meal. Me and my cohorts visited Troy’s often, suckling at its life-shortening teat with singleminded enthusiasm. My friends would always order the house special, the eggel: a puffy white-bread bagel, grilled in grease, topped with an egg over easy, cheese, and your choice of meaty embellishments. They’d set it on a melmac plate with gravy fries – crinkle-cuts in hot brown gravy, perfect for dipping the end of your deeply-bitten bagel as the barely-congealed yolk begins to drip forward … The ingredients were simple but it was like no one ever truly understood what a fried egg on a bagel could aspire to be, until Troy built his first eggel and my people rejoiced.
Well, those people, anyway. Everybody ahead of me in line. Even visitors from far off-campus pilgramaged to eggle-town, and all seemed to think it worth the trip. Everybody was ordering and enjoying eggles. Everybody but me.
These were my thoughts as I crept through the line at Troy’s late one parched and peckish evening. My friends had all just ordered their eggle plates with tallboys, and I was about to get… what? A burger? Gyro? The Philly-afal Plate? My heart said no and my spirit rebelled. Be bigger! it told me. Get what you want right now, not matter what you hated this morning! Ride the wave of your desire! Answer the call of the eggle!
As I ordered my eggle plate with bacon, I was disappointed that the rafters and floorboards didn’t gasp out their incredulity. No one even seemed to notice. My culinary exploration didn’t raise a single eyebrow. Reality continued unabated. Even as I took the plate to our banquette, only my one original roomie inquired, “hey, isn’t that what you never eat?”
However, by the time he’d finished the question, I’d already had a big bite all on my own, and, already, things had begun to change. The opinions of those around me faded to meaninglessness. I was experiencing a complex of gustatory sensations so sublime as to render speech both inadequate and impossible. There was too much going on in my mouth for me to process it at the time, and I won’t sully the experience by trying to recapitulate it here. But the interplay of textures, together with the layering of flavors, in that efficient little package stacked steaming in my hand… It was all so good, and it was undeniably held together by that egg, its yolk bursting, whites just set and blending with the cheese melting from the bagel crown above it with its crisp fried crust…
That eggle had converted me in a single bite, not just to itself but to its foundational ingredient. I suddenly felt no connection to my previous 18 years of absolute rejection of all things egg. I had broken, as it were, out of my shell. From that point on I was happy to try anything with eggs in it, from benedicts to bi bim bap. Cholesterol counts notwithstanding, I had begun to embrace the egg.
That embrace continues to the present day, more or less – cholesterol is now fully withstanding, and I still think hardboiled eggs are generally not food. But one of my life’s purest pleasures these days is to be importuned by my whole family to grill up some eggels on holiday mornings. I can’t take the boys to try the original, that’s long gone and maybe best left behind. But I can honor the legend and make it live in the moment. When I bite into one of the eggles I make these days, I feel the grilled face of the bagel crunch between my teeth, my mouth floods as the yolk bursts, I see my boys with eyes closed and canary goatees dripping into their laps, and I know I’ve honored a proud tradition. I don’t just eat eggs, I proselytize. No aversions and no apologies. On days I make eggles they are good enough to be the first egg I’d ever eat, but they’re hardly that now. I’ve eaten countless eggs, so many that my old aversion is now something I have to stretch to remember. Yet To this day when I eat an omelet or ikura with raw quail yolk I feel like I’ve taken a step forward. Some days that’s enough.