3.31.2013

A CRACK CAN BE A BEAUTIFUL THING

Sometimes it happens. The egg cracks, just as I put it to the boil. Usually I am dismayed when the egg cracks, the cooking time is thrown off, the white becomes tumescent and rubbery. But today the egg cracked and I thought, how beautiful. So here is my Easter egg.


It cracked. There are a couple of things to consider. One is the condition under which cracks happen. Sometimes the fault lies in our eggs. It is simply revealed: it was there all along, but so faintly etched across the surface that it was nearly impossible to pick out. Or, perhaps, more likely, we had a glimpse of it, in a certain light, but we really didn't want to see that fault line. The egg, after all, is tempting; an egg usually promises to be delicious and maybe it will (magically) stay intact.

Regardless of what we hope for, the fault line will usually widen, rather than disappear. This is the nature of fault lines and eggs do not behave any differently than leopards with their spots. But, and this is the thing to remember, fault lines may not be fatal to your experience of the egg. They just require vigilance--like cracks in the foundation. You want to keep an eye on them, as they may be the innocent result of weight settling and shifting. Indeed, that sort of crack might be a sign of something good--a sign of accommodation to inevitable stresses. It might even become part of something beautiful someday, like the crackle of a fine glaze. That crack reminds us that everything changes. Even--or especially-- the egg, because as any good (or bad) egg will remind you, an egg is change.

Sometimes the egg is intact, at the beginning. Maybe most of the time we are given good sound eggs. The egg is (contrary to the notion of the fragile eggshell) actually quite durable. Handled properly, that is. Handled properly, the egg withstands even the heat of a hard boil--and becomes even more delicious. The egg pulls through the rapids, transformed. Eggs are quite resilient after all.

However eggs are not always handled properly. Often they are treated quite carelessly. They are dropped. Or they are neglected. Or they are forgotten altogether, abandoned in their pots to explode when the water boils off. Eggs are so common, so everyday; perhaps we treat them mindlessly? Perhaps we think there are always more eggs where that one came from, so why treat it as if it were a precious thing?

When the egg cracks, but does not fall apart, we can learn a great deal about handling, and we can learn about paying attention to fault lines.

But then there is the crack-up. Perhaps inevitable. Perhaps you saw it coming. So what? I have great respect for all the king's men. So if they cannot put Humpty together again, I certainly won't be able to. And that's the last lesson of the egg, today. Crack-ups--and I'm talking about scrambled messes--are irreparable. Try as you might, you will never get more than a weak patchily glued-together soggy old thing.

We spend way too much time and energy struggling to salvage messes, struggling to repair them, struggling to make them into something they will never again be. We become attached to them--and to our woes. We spend way too little time learning to detect the fault lines etched across the surface of conversation, evident in the pattern of actions--so we are always caught by surprise when the egg cracks.

The trash bin is an excellent model of compartmentalization. Sulk, sorrow, clean up, and be done with it. There is no going back. But even that can be a beautiful thing, if we let it: learn from it. Luckily with eggs (and I know, I know, another trip to the farm stand, and we're tired, already, but...) there will always be a chance to try again.

You may have had your heart set on a soft-boiled egg. But then again, you might enjoy an omelette.

16 comments:

Jill said...

Oh my goodness, how I agree about time wasted on cracks. The need to just toss some conversations. Oh please, I think to myself, let this go.



Now I'm going back on your blog to look at your boiled eggs in a dish, looking so delicious. I could live on eggs. You are right about the times you cannot repair broken eggs, just let them go into the recycle bag and happily start over.



Thanking you for making eggs a priority!


Jill

Joan Paulson Gage said...

Somehow I don't think this post is about eggs.

sarah robinson said...

Ha! One of your best posts ever.

Vicki Archer said...

I agree... Sometimes the fine lines... the little faults... are what make life all the more interesting...
A wonderful analogy Dominique... xv

Darlene said...

Some of my blue dyed, hard boiled eggs looked like they had varicose veins when peeled. Sometimes you have to work with the cracks. Deviled eggs were the answer. The lamb cake did turn out. No cracks. Happy Easter, everyone.

katrinakenison said...

So funny and wise and true. I started out yesterday with a dozen eggs in the pot. And then I went upstairs, and it occurred to me to make the bed, which led me to cleaning the bathroom, which led to emptying some trash, which led me back downstairs to the kitchen -- AND my pan full of over-cooked, cracked eggs. Saved 5. Dyed those. Threw the rest away, humming Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. . ." Happy Easter. xoxo

mary said...

Yes, paying attention to those fault lines: sounds so easy and straight forward, but it requires an entire focused quest.

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slowlovelife said...

My inbox this morning was filled by friends reminding me of the Leonard Cohen song, Anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_e39UmEnqY8
I had completely forgotten about it, and of course, it isn't about eggs, but about bells...Here's the marvelous verse:
" Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in..."

Suzan said...

Or you can encourage the cracks and make huevos haminados: Just barely hardboil the eggs, crack the shells all over - on purpose! - then surround them with onions & their skins, lots garlic, and black tea, cover with water, set on a flame tamer on the back burner, and leave them to braise over night. The next day you have fragrant, creamy eggs, etched with brown lace, little works of the art of ageing. Serve with olive oil and za'atar. mmmmmmm

Just wondering said...

I don't think this post is one bit about eggs, so, someone you have been seeing has a few faults I take it..... Dominique, did it ever occur to you that he might be thinking the same about you???????

slowlovelife said...

Please--this has nothing to do with someone else's faults. Or about anyone I have been seeing--all my friendships are intact at the moment, thank you. And please, don't be nasty, at least not here. Of course the piece is about more than eggs--though it is very much about eggs too. But if you read again, with a softer heart, you will see that it is about the nature of change, and how we can learn from the fault lines that occur between and among people, in the way we relate to one another (and not about the faults in each other, or in ourselves-- that's another subject and quite a rich one.) Fault lines, as I said, can be marvelous, instructive, thought-provoking and, of course, shattering. I go to some length here, egged on by the rather intense spirit of your remark.

warren said...

As a zen master reportedly told his pupil whose only prized possession was a beautiful rice bowl, "the cup is already broken."

warren said...

Speaking of eggs, I could never get your perfect 7 minute boil to deliver. Perhaps it is the attitude differences between NYC and Seattle eggs. Anyway I have been experimenting with microwave-ing them so my college-bound, dorm-bound daughter can skip the freshman 20. This morning I added bacon bits and smoked salmon for a he-man, locavore version. Tip: pierce the yolk, reduce the power and don't mind wasting a dozen til you get it right. the only problem with this is that the eggs are done before the tea water.

warren said...

wow! This is a higher level of the game. Like the NYT crossword.

pamingram said...

on Easter Sunday, our neighbors Cha Cha and Scotty ( 5 and 8) arrived with a dozen blue and brown eggs from their hens. Eggs. Gifts, like your wonderful essay. thanks, psi