Making Eggs Is No Easy Assignment

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IN the accepted enigmatic manner of our esoteric household, she interrupted Chad's wild-black raspberry jelly and home-grown hot toast to say, ``Tonight, whyt we go call on Charlie?'' I have no idea what Charlie's right name is, but she's been Charlie to us for a long time. Cheerful always, jolly and comely, she waits on us when we appear in hunger at the Harborview Restaurant, which puts out a good broiled haddock. ``Did somebody yell for Charlie?'' she erupts as she approaches and another pleasant supper has begun. So I found my necktie, none the worse for neglect, and off we went to see Charlie. But the Harborview door was locked and a sign said no-no. Since the proprietor had lately invested heavily in expansion, improvements, and decor, we doubted he had merely stepped across the street to get a bite to eat, but lacking an explanation we turned about, went home, and I made supper.

We hoped nothing severe had come about, although here in Maine we are casual about government abuse of cooks and restaurateurs. Time was every lake and pond had at least one summer resort, and a great many Mainers made good summer money working at these places until the IRS put them out of business. The IRS thought up a regulation making the owner of the resort responsible for reporting the income of his staff. This included tips, and how would the owner get to know how much the Biddles from the Main Line tipped little Jennie, who waited on their table for two weeks and was about to go to college that fall? Or the chore boy, the housekeeping girls, the laundress, the dock man, and all the others who did the work because while the wages were small the tips made your eyes bulge? Maine has fewer and fewer such wonder-places now, and more and more retired summer-camp people.

When we got home I made supper. I scrambled some eggs. I do this with a difference, usually for breakfast, and have frequently been asked for the details of my success. It is by no means a simple matter to scramble a decent egg. I do lack truffles and Pfifferlings but am able to compromise with store mushrooms, or in this instance with a can of buttons. But first, I dispose enough strips of bacon in my iron spider and consign them to a slow heat, upon which they will mature gracefully without too much supervision. I lay out a paper towel on which they will drain.

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My next move will not be possible for folks at a distance, but they may improvise. It may be odd that about one-third of Maine's native population derives from French-speaking Canada, and I know of but one true charcutier among us. His name is Roger Mailhot, and he has a sausage factory in the city of Lewiston. I knew Roger's father, from whom Roger learned to say, ``I'm true charcutier, and probably the only person in Lewiston today who knows what the word means.'' It means a butcher who deals only in pork. (There can also be a charcutiere.) The Mailhot sausages are Regensburg-style, a small breakfast sausage seasoned their own way, and not found too far from their Lewiston base. I go once a year and buy for my freezer.

For my scrambled eggs, I cut two of Roger's sausages, pre-cooked, into bits. Then I do the same with a cut of extra-sharp New York State cheddar cheese. Things are taking shape. My bacon has started to look interesting, and I pour off some fat into my big Teflon frypan so it will acquire knowledge and understanding for the task ahead.

There's an odd thing about eggs. I see people in the market taking small, medium, and sometimes large eggs, whereas the extra-large and the jumbos are the best buy. Why do you think we farmers keep the double-yolkers for our own breakfasts?

Using a three-tine kitchen fork, I now whisk the bejabbers out of the eggs, milk, cheese, mushrooms, and sausage, and then let the mixture rest while I make a small green salad and panfry a previously-baked potato. Having allowed the mixed ingredients several ``rests,'' I now put some heat under my big pan and dump them in. Scrambled eggs need constant stirring on a slow heat: The cheese must melt; the sausage needs to warm; the mushrooms must osmosophize and commingle. The bacon gets drained, the toast is at attention. I now announce that all those not having vital business may leave quietly and close the door. The dinner plates on the open oven door were delightfully warm.

She said, ``I miss Charlie, but not really that much.''

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