In my recent reading, these lines from the stage play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn stood out to me:
Bohr: A curious sort of diary memory is.
Heisenberg: You open the pages, and all the neat headings and tidy jottings dissolve around you.
Bohr: You step through the pages into the months and days themselves.
Margrethe: The past becomes the present inside your head.
I watch imaginary characters play out scenes in front of me, I tap my foot and bob my head when there is no music playing, and I get lost in my memories more often than the average bear. It is safe to say that I can be a bit lofty at times, and today was no exception; this morning I was flying solo at the bar of a breakfast diner, and all it took was a plate of Eggs Benedict landing in front of me to get my mind to wander.
I first heard of and consumed Eggs Benedict roughly eight years ago, in a wharf diner on the Southeast coast of Maine. My mother, younger sister, and I had traveled there for the summer so Mom could document the oral history of a Native American tribe, but on that particular day we were visiting with one of Mom’s friends and former colleagues from back home in Michigan, who happened to be vacationing in a seaside cottage. That morning, we went out for breakfast together at a diner of our host’s choosing, and – just as I did this morning – sat ourselves at the bar to eat. The diner wasn’t so touristy that it was packed with people like every other place we had eaten at, and yet, like any proper wharf diner, its wood-paneled walls were still adorned with fish nets and buoys, as well as postcards and trinkets featuring lighthouses and lobsters. It was warmly lit, and I distinctly recall appreciating that it didn’t smell like a sailor’s footlocker.
Mom, seated a few stools away from me ordered Eggs Benedict, and it piqued my interest solely because of the name. I had just been gloriously inundated with historical knowledge having traveled through New England on the way to Maine, so of course I recognized the first name of the American traitor, Benedict Arnold, and was intrigued. I asked the waitress (a kind, plump woman who favored terms of endearment), what this Eggs Benedict was, and if I remember correctly, her response was something along the lines of, “Poached eggs covah’d in bawtah sawce, on top-a hay-am and an English muffin.” My horrible colloquial description of her New England accent aside, I was hooked at “bawtah sawce.”
If you didn’t already know, I am a self-proclaimed breakfast aficionado with a specialty in sandwich making, and as such I strongly believe that as the most important meal of the day, breakfast should also be the tastiest. Ahem. Many years after my first encounter with Eggs Benedict (and after I’d been bitten by the culinary bug), I heard the brilliant cooking channel personality, Nigella Lawson, explain that she could not and would not poach an egg, because it was too difficult. I, being who I am, saw it as a challenge. After all, it was hardly noon (so still well within breakfast/brunch hours) and there was a dish I loved but never ate that featured poached eggs. Can you guess what it was?
With my secret idol, Julia Child’s, famous hollandaise recipe pulled up on my phone, I embarked on cooking the perfect breakfast that even Nigella Lawson could not manage. Little did I know, the egg poaching was the easy part of the meal preparation, because not only does hollandaise have a ridiculous amount of butter in it (more than we had), it required an attention span of more than a few minutes to make. That said, what resulted was perfectly poached eggs (sans hollandaise), atop ham, on wheat bread. Not exactly Eggs Benedict, but that day Dad introduced me to a new type of sandwich– the open face.
These experiences led me to that order this morning. For an hour today I sat in a daze, mindlessly consuming my breakfast, strolling through the past in my mind. I know it’s not good to live in the past, but it sure is nice to be able to visit it from time to time.