As Dining Editor, I can recall countless moments when I felt guilty for making myself instant ramen for dinner, but as a college student living off-campus without a meal plan, I have a limited amount of time and resources that I can dedicate to preparing an Instagram-worthy meal that lives up to my editorial position. There is, however, one member of the protein food group that I can confidently declare to have spent all of last fall mastering — the egg.
Ah, the egg. With its iconic form that has inspired egg-shaped timers, chairs and toilet stalls, not only has this protein-packed vessel prompted many a debate over whether it or the chicken came first, but it has also cracked the world record for most likes on Instagram, with 50 million likes and counting. And with a variety of ways to prepare it, the egg was the perfect ingredient with which I should commence my culinary journey.
Although most people start with frying or scrambling eggs, omelettes were actually my first foray into egg preparation. It wasn’t as if I had rationalized the omelette as the ideal way to start learning how to cook eggs; rather, I had always enjoyed omelettes, particularly a delicious one that my best friend had made for me when we had finished putting away our storage and packing our suitcases to return home for the summer. That memory of having a meal lovingly cooked by someone I wouldn’t see for another three months stuck with me and sparked my desire to create one of my own omelettes come Fall 2018.
To put it bluntly, my first omelette was burnt, misshapen and leaky. As I gazed at my Frankenstein of a creation, all I could do was laugh and call over my housemates to bear witness to what I had accomplished after half an hour in the kitchen.
In many ways, this first attempt reflected many of my weaknesses. Not only was my omelette burnt because I had failed to keep track of time when I allowed for its egg component to cook while I cut other ingredients, but it was also misshapen and leaky because I had overloaded it with ham, vegetables and cheese.
Yet despite its appearance, I thought my first ever omelette tasted okay and became increasingly motivated to improve upon it in subsequent attempts. Nonetheless, I reminded myself that I needed to work on my time management, multitasking and portion control skills before I could invite my housemates to take a bite.
As an English major who writes for the college newspaper, I am aware that the essays and articles I have produced over the years have improved, so I can remember the mistakes I used to make in my writing, the professors who gave me the most valuable feedback and the literature that has inspired me. Though easier due to its visual and gustatory components, tracking my culinary progress has been similar to charting that of my writing.
It’s one thing for you to appreciate your own creation, and it’s another for someone else to compliment you on it. Having a professor leave you positive comments on and find your paper worthy of a high grade can validate your confidence in your writing, just as seeing someone else enjoy your umpteenth omelette can make all those past attempts all the more rewarding.
When my sister and her boyfriend visited me in Ithaca over Fall Break, it had been a little over a month since I had begun making omelettes, and I finally felt confident enough to ask them if they would like me to make them some breakfast while I waited for them to finish getting ready for our hike. Sure enough, they took me up on my offer, and when the two of them tried the omelette I had made, not only were they impressed, but they also said it was delicious and finished all of it.
In fact, my sister’s boyfriend encouraged me to continue learning how to cook, and showed me the way he had learned to make scrambled eggs when he worked in a hotel kitchen. It is moments like these that are important to remember whenever you’re confronting a new challenge. They remind you of how you have developed and how much more you can do.
When I made my first batch of scrambled eggs, they were — unsurprisingly — overcooked and rubbery in texture, which was demonstrative of my lack of patience when I was making them. I hadn’t beaten the eggs for long enough; I hadn’t given the butter enough time to melt; and I hadn’t taken the mixture off the stove and stirred it enough times. Although I was disappointed, my past experience with cooking omelettes had shown me that a first failed attempt only signaled that I had more to look forward to accomplishing rather than more to lament over.
When I finally cooked scrambled eggs the right way, they were the best scrambled eggs I ever had — soft, silky and tasty without any salt or pepper, I could not stop eating and talking about them! They were the best thing on and since sliced bread. So evident was my joy that my housemate Emma, a much more talented cook and baker than I, tried her hand at making her own scrambled eggs, which she also confessed were the best she had ever eaten. Thus, I witnessed how cooking for yourself can also inspire others to do the same.
I gradually moved onto poached eggs and rolled omelettes, and the process of mastering each of these forms was similar to that of learning how to make regular omelettes and scrambled eggs. Each of these experiences reinforced the values that I had previously learned — patience, time management and multitasking — reassuring me that I could approach my next goal with confidence.
Just as Ariana lists Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Mac Miller and Pete Davidson as her formative exes, I see omelettes (“one taught me love”), scrambled eggs (“one taught me patience”), poached eggs and rolled omelettes as milestones in my progress as a cook. I haven’t figured out what my next challenge is yet, but whatever it is, eggs have emboldened me with the knowledge that I will eventually successfully prepare a dish — and learn some important life lessons along the way.