Thursday, April 19, 2012


THIS MORNING I WOKE UP GRUMPY FOR NO GOOD REASON. Maybe the weather? It's been unseasonably lovely —balmy, sunny, light winds to quickly disperse any buildup of heat. Today is overcast and very cool—mid fifties—perfectly respectable for early April. Actually, I enjoyed wearing a sweater today. Sweater weather was not the problem. It was the weather report that justified my fears that all my yard's early fertility would be nipped in the bud. Driving home from work yesterday I heard that we are under a frost warning. My peach trees have been rewarded for their floral display with tiny fuzzy fruits, like tight round pussy willows, and after a year of no peaches, I can already taste the pies of August and September. But we are not guaranteed a harvest. If we dipped down below freezing last night, those baby peaches are not showing it, nor are my peonies, pushing up shoots like small crimson trees. They are safe for today, but the warning pushes on through tonight, and I am helpless against the possibilities of another frost.

Well, if I can't control the frost, what can I control? I cast around for something to improve my mood. My gaze falls on two egg coddlers standing next to my egg rack. My friend, Elaine, first introduced me to egg coddlers. I noticed on her kitchen shelf a pretty ceramic jar, like half an egg cup with a metal lid screwed on top. I asked her about it and she told me that she collects egg coddlers. “What are those?” I wanted to know. Instead of explaining, she showed me, right then and there. Though we had just eaten lunch, she coddled us a couple of eggs. “First,” she said, setting them on the counter and unscrewing the lids, “you put a little bit of butter, salt and pepper in the cup.” She cut a little slice of butter into each cup, then grabbed the salt and pepper shakers. She set a little saucepan of water on the stovetop and broke an egg into each cup, screwed on the lids and set the egg coddlers into the pan of water to boil.

My grandmother used to occasionally serve us soft boiled eggs in egg cups. The process fascinated me. She would have us set the table with a spoon, a knife and a napkin beside an egg cup, small end up, while she boiled the eggs. We'd also have a plate with buttered toast. She would place the steaming eggs in the small cup. Using the knife, you would tap a circle in the tip of the egg, to top it. Then, you had a choice: you could use your spoon and scoop the egg out of the shell and spread it on your toast, or you could upend the egg cup and use the large side as a bowl to hold your egg while you ate it. At some point in my childhood I got squeamish about “runny eggs” and then always hard cooked my eggs. At some point we outgrew having breakfast at Nanny's house, and I had all but forgotten egg cups and soft cooked eggs.


Elaine and I chatted as we waited for our eggs to coddle. Quite likely I told her about Nanny's egg cups. When the timer went off she pulled the coddlers from the water and unscrewed them, handing me my first coddled egg. With the first bite I completely understood the name. The egg was soft and delicate. I gently chopped it with my spoon and each bite melted in my mouth.


That first coddled egg was many years ago, but ever since I have been looking for egg coddlers without much success. Then, last week, at the thrift store, I was paying for three wooden spoons to replace the ones that Ursula ate—with a sneaky dog like mine, I can't keep a wooden spoon in the kitchen—and I happened to glance at the locked cabinet for the high-end items. There was a Royal Worcester set. Two porcelain egg coddlers in a box, including yellowed directions and recipes. I used my entire March coffee allowance, and still had to go to the car to dig in my parking meter change, but it was worth it. Now, when I wake up in a funk, I can coddle myself a little. The ritual calms me. I add herbs and a little cheese to mine, and pop the coddler in the tea pot. When the kettle sings I let the egg sit in the hot water for 4 minutes for a perfectly coddled egg, perfectly coddling my morning, and I can face the day with courage and hope.

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