That night I was alone in my house in Los Angeles. It’s Christmas Eve Eve and despite having a stocked fridge full of things to make a nutritious evening meal, all I wanted was scrambled eggs.
Growing up, I did not like scrambled eggs. I liked eggs done every other which-way you could imagine, but even the word scrambled eggs activated my gag reflex. I think this was mainly because scrambled eggs were done a certain way in my house. We weren’t a family for full English fry-ups, so the fact it was an integral part of our Christmas Day itinerary is somewhat surprising. It was the only day of the year that any of us had a cooked meal at any other point than dinner, and it felt like such a luxury.
Everyone had a job; mine was the military operation of creating enough toast, of the right colour ways, for nine people with a toaster that only had two slots. My sister made the scrambled eggs; using the microwave in the corner of the kitchen. I think this was out of necessity since the hob would have been used for beans (Dad) and bacon (Mum). Family lore stated that the microwave was a present when my mum gave birth to our little brother in 1987. I never questioned from who. Either way, I dreaded the appearance of that scrambled egg every year. Microwaving a bowl of eggs turns them into a mushy, colourless cloud. The lack of colour does not equal a lack of smell. The steamy stench stuck in my nostrils for the best part of a decade.
Then I had a boyfriend while I was at University who was a terrible cook. On our one and only Valentines Day together he invited me over with the promise of preparing me dinner. I thought this was the height of sophistication. He’d kicked his housemate out, used a grotty tea towel as a table cloth and there might have even been Ikea tea-lights. He served me up a plate of white pasta bows and proudly proffered a bottle of tomato ketchup in my direction. Yep, he genuinely thought ‘pasta and tomato sauce’ was farfalle + Heinz’s finest. Side-eye stories like these make it all the more surprising that he was the person who instilled in me an acceptance of scrambled eggs. But not really, because he couldn’t cook, so they were just fried egg basically. Over-done, omelette consistency eggs that I ate by the mountain that summer to avoid any other kitchen experiments or much of anything at all. Our relationship was a wonky meeting of two anxious minds; our short time together peppered with panic attacks and sleepless nights and wrung hands but there was always comfort to be found in scrambled eggs.
Then I moved into a London house-share with my first ever friend from the South of England. Tres exotic. Now she was the height of sophistication. She had things like a cafetiere, she spoke French and she covered our house in arty black and white 80p postcards from Paperchase. And finally, she taught me to make proper scrambled eggs. We lived an hours commute from central London and were both just starting out in careers so we never saw each other on week nights, but we would take it in turns to buy Saturday breakfast ingredients and meet in the kitchen to rustle up bagels and eggs and coffee and orange juice. Even though I insisted I didn’t like scrambled eggs, she insisted I just hadn’t had them done right. She used ingredients from Marks and Spencer (they do not just sell knickers, I learnt) and went big on the butter, the cream and the pepper. The key, she taught me, was that before you think they are done – take the eggs off the heat. The pan is so hot, that they’ll continue to cook through but keep the creamy consistency. Over our year of living together, I learnt to not only love scrambled eggs but how to make them perfectly. We stopped being friends soon after moving out and I learnt that ‘break-ups’ with female friends are just as, if not more, devastating than romantic relationships.
But I still think of her every single time I take the pan off the heat. When the eggs are just-right.