30.3.18

Champagne & Egg Yolk

WORDS BY LAURA JANE FAULDS
ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY

A cook at my restaurant was experimenting with sous-vide-ing egg yolks; I was polishing wine glasses and watching him. A shell was cracked open, and a white had not set. The gluey white fell dramatically, in ribbons, away from the yolk and into the sink, reminding me of once-melted, now-set candlewax. The clean orbs of yolk, barely-translucent marbles made of sunset, were a greater success. They sat sweetly on a small white plate. They were perfect.
        We ate the egg yolks smeared on ripped-off hunks of baguette with butter and fleur de sel. Oily and plush, fat, almost fudge-like in texture. The salt was spunky, like pop-rocks, and the butter was unnecessary but so necessary: a silky, deafening indulgence, cream on cream—
        It was perfect. That bite of food was perfect.
        I went downstairs and packed up my things. I put on my coat, and came upstairs to find a runnier execution: this time, the yolk was flat, as if tidily cut out of the middle of a classic fried egg, and its juicy innards were contained only by a thin, frail skin. Pierced with the tip of a butter knife, the yolk oozed out of itself. It was dementedly satisyfing to watch, like one of those zit-popping videos on YouTube.
       I walked home, and later received a text message asking me what wine pairs best with runny egg yolk. I knew the answer without having to think of it.





**

Eggs are weird. I eat them almost every day, and if I skip a couple egg-days I start to fiend for them, dream of them. I like my eggs fried in olive oil, a little burnt around the edges, the yolk salted and peppered and cooked a touch past runny, the border gunky over goopy and smushable— but even as I’m loving them, there’s always part of me that thinks: “Should I really be eating this?”— eating an egg is perverse, like eating a kooky fungus from a nature program, a sea anemone or a butterfly’s wing. You’re really living on the edge when you’re eating an egg, opening yourself up to the possibility of accidentally consuming an undercooked, gelatinous egg white. Last summer I ate an egg white so raw I couldn’t see it, it was clear, smeared atop a chunk of roasted eggplant: an unrivalledly repulsive experience.
        I don’t want to talk about it. I didn’t eat eggs for a month.
        Now I eat two of them with a burnt bagel and half a pot of coffee every morning. The coffee cools down in a mug next to my plate while I eat, I can’t bear the texture of egg yolk and coffee swirling around in my mouth together. I drink my coffee black because I won’t mix milk and water, and egg yolk is even worse, the way it coats your tongue and teeth.
        That’s most of why it needs Champagne: its pétillance (that's wine-French for “bubbliness”) would corrode the strange smooth film right off. And, Champagne is high in acid, which would laser beam straight through the yolky unctuousness, doubly cleaning your mouth out, ready for coffee!

**

I like breakfast. I think it is the most romantic and aesthetically-pleasing of the meals, and also I love the way it is very plain, meals like:
        Bread & butter & jam. Two boiled eggs, shell on, half a grapefruit. Croissant & hunk of cheese. A rose of smoked salmon, smashed avocado, the sound of pepper cracking. Glass of juice. A folded-in-half slice of ham.
        These are things of great beauty. A small ceramic pitcher, a sweet old salt & pepper shaker set. Nice muesli in a scalloped yellow bowl, one tablespoon of peanut butter scraped up against the side. A handful of cute berries, a small igloo made of yoghurt. The mug you like best, which is so much better than all the other mugs. Really! How is it so much better than all the other mugs??
        When I was young I had a boyfriend who was a breakfast-eater and I thought it was weird for about a minute, and then I became a breakfast-eater. I wake up every morning so jacked to eat breakfast, and I mean breakfastnot brunch. I hate brunch; I think it’s gauche. It’s inconvenient, and I’m always in a bad mood when I eat it. My hair is always dirty, and I wish I was at home. It’s too much food, too rich for that time of day. I hate to think that the concept of Brunch might pop into someone’s head when they look at the words champagne & egg yolk together. Some stupid mimosa— a waste of champagne, as I call it — and some cutesy overwrought take on a “benny” they would call it, this horrible brunch-loving moron I’m making up in my head. I feel like in a brunch place there’s always fogged-up windows. All these dirty people sweating out their hangovers. Stale breath and bloated bellies.
        I am not attracted to the idea of champagne & egg yolk because the champagne transforms the pure meek egg into something more luxurious. I like the opposite: I want the eggs to humble up the Champagne, which in itself is too baseline cool to be as extravagant as people want it to be. Champagne isn’t flashy, it’s classic: like a black turtleneck, red lip, gold band. Any well-made simple thing. It’s like an egg!
       The most extravagant circumstance in which I want champagne & egg yolk to be co-consumed would be: in a hotel room, next to a window, the eggs loosely scrambled and garnished with caviar & crème fraiche. And there would be a glass bottle of some weird brand of sparkling water, a silver cafètiere of espresso, and you would eat the entire meal like this: bite of egg, sip of champagne, sip of coffee, sip of water, etc. And you would have to be wearing very fine pyjamas. Silk, ideally, and with a monogram.

**

Otherwise, you should be a regular person, just sitting here, like I am, and it should be a really dull day and time: for instance, a Wednesday afternoon. You should be hungover, your hair should look bad. Wear a sports bra. Don’t bathe.
        Earlier today, I googled “how to fry a sunny-side up egg,” hoping I might discover some secret egg-frying “hack” I’ve been missing out on, but, as it turns out, I already know how to perfectly fry a sunny-side up egg. The first result that comes up in the google search is a Jamie Oliver recipe, which reads, essentially:
        Crack the egg into a pan. Fry the egg.
        I am drinking a 200 mL of Moet & Chandon out of a Calgary Olympics-branded champagne flute I once found in a cardboard box on Ossington Avenue while walking to go get a haircut I would quickly come to regret (it was a bob). Moët is a Champagne house I’m largely indifferent toward; I’m drinking it because it was the only champagne at my local liquor store available in mini-bottle form, and, like I said, I’m hungover. And also, I’m broke.
        I sort of appreciate the way Moët is so neutral and inexpressive: if Miller High Life is the Champagne of Beers, then Moët is certainly the Beer of Champagne. It’s floral, it’s pale, and it gets the job done. If someone told me it was their favourite make, I would say: “You need to try more Champagne,” but if anyone ever gave me a glass of it, under any circumstance, on any day, I would say: “Thank you.”
        I ate all the egg now. I’m running my finger through the end of the yolk, on the plate, and I’m sad that I don’t have much more of my mediocre Moët left to drink. I was right about everything I already said, the bubbles and the acid and all that; my only new revelation is that, flavourwise, the yolk makes the wine taste more metallic and grapey, and there’s a hit of something nutty and fatty on the back-end, at the beginning or end of your tongue, and now I’m trying to figure out: where does your tongue start? At what point does its tongueiness segue into being, just, the back of your throat?
        I fried the egg in avocado oil. It tasted like popcorn. My Champagne is now finished, and I’m heartbroken. I’m floored by the for-real excellence of that pairing, what a treat it turned out to be. A perfect pocket I sewed into the middle of my strange sunny day— the tiniest, prettiest meal, too profound to call a simple “snack.”

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