Zen Egg

post no. 68

6 November 2011 4 comments

Frederick Franck was a Dutch artist and author who wrote dozens of books about drawing, seeing, Zen, all subjects that interest me. He was also a dental surgeon who worked for a time with Albert Schweitzer in Africa; he was ever guided, like Schweitzer, by a deep reverence for life.

This morning I came across this quote from one of his books, Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing: 

When I draw a tree I am faced with a mystery. I must enter into this mystery or fail. Whatever I draw confronts me with the mystery of Being.

I don’t know how Franck felt about food, but I thought it would be interesting to substitute “cook” for “draw,” and, say, “egg” for “tree.” As in:

When I cook an egg I am faced with a mystery. I must enter into this mystery or fail. Whatever I cook confronts me with the mystery of Being.

The fact is, it’s so easy to cook on autopilot, especially something as ordinary as an egg. It’s a bit of a paradox. Like any other art or skill, successful cooking depends on repetition. But then how do you find awareness in the midst of routine—and avoid a mediocre egg? To take it one step more Zen, how do you enter into the mystery of your ingredient—your egg?

One way is to slow down, focus, and savor the moment. Another is to shake things up. A few years ago I read a comment by the British chef, Marco Pierre White, about scrambling eggs. It inspired a new way, for me, of thinking about cooking eggs. No more mixing them in a separate bowl, stirring in a splash of milk or cream or water. Instead, combine everything into one flowing act.

Scrambled Eggs a la Marco Pierre White

So simple the word recipe doesn’t belong: Warm a cast iron pan over low heat, add a tablespoon or two of sweet butter, crack two eggs directly into the pan, and slowly, very slowly, whisk yolk and white together, never taking your eyes off the eggs, until they reach a creamy perfection. Only then, season with salt and pepper. Here’s all you need:

Eggs in Pan

What is the sound of two eggs scrambling? Something to savor, in the cooking as well as the eating.

 

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