Our table, which Tim spent a goodly segment of easter weekend sanding and repeatedly basting in polish, is back. Which means now if I make us breakfast on it, everything suddenly looks 97% more idyllic in photographs. As Prop Joe from much-clasped-to-modern-hearts TV show The Wire said, look the part, be the part, huh? (...he ended the sentence with something a little saltier than "huh".)
I've had a sorry run of egg-related kitchen failures lately. Like these terrible pastry cases that I wanted to make into lemon tarts. I refused to throw out, thinking I could eat them, the burden-of-your-shame-biscuits that they had become, and not waste ingredients - but they were dry and gravelly and yet soggy and falling to bits at the same time. Wasting ingredients and injuring your own self-esteem is a cruel combination. But while nervous, I had a good feeling about these miso scrambled eggs. Miso paste is used with water become a thin, unpromising, yet magically delicious broth. Wonderful as that is, miso paste as a general ingredient gives you this mysterious savoury tricksy flavour that makes everything taste like itself, but better. Like when I put my glasses on and everything in front of my eyes sharpens up.
It looks a little indisposed at first, the miso paste tinting the scrambled eggs a troublingly peachy shade. But it comes right, and if you've got some garnishy thing around to cover it with - in my case, fried shallots, but chives, coriander or sesame seeds would also be excellent - so much the better. Hooray for garnishes.
Miso Scrambled Eggs
A recipe by myself. Serves two, or one very hungry. Or four people a small spoonful each. Or six people, but three of them can only watch. Look, it's 6am when I'm typing this, okay.
1 tablespoon white miso paste (heaped or level, depending on your sodium avidity)
2 tablespoons water
Plain oil for frying (I used rice bran. It has a pleasing lack of oiliness to its taste.)
Fried shallots for garnish (optional) (but way delicious)
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the miso paste and water till smooth. Crack in the eggs and roughly mix, just to break up the yolks and swirl in the miso. Heat a little oil, about two teaspoons, in a saucepan over a medium heat. Pour in the egg mixture and allow to cook gently, stirring with a spatula or wooden spoon to scramble it as it firms. Once thick and fluffy and basically not liquid any more, divide between two pieces of hot fresh toast.
If you're the easily suspicious kind of person, and I understand how tampering with scrambled eggs might do that to you, be assured that this is ridiculously, non-threateningly delicious. The miso paste gives the eggs a rounded saltiness, the intensity of roasted mushroom or slow-cooked beef, but without changing anything about the texture or basic flavour. It's subtle, but present. It's really, really good. I love breakfast/brunch ever so much, and while going out for it is one of the more exciting things you can do with your life, sometimes it's nice to kick up a fuss in the home. Also like all breakfast foods, this is a perfect dinner. Or midnight snack. Or lunch. Or one of those snacks that you have to help your brain think about what you'll have for lunch. Which is different to brunch.
It's my birthday next week. Birthdays can be stupidly melancholic - wanting to do something but not being sure what; reflecting on everything you've ever done up until this point in vicious detail; wanting all of the trinkets that there are; feeling this frantic stiltedness at trying to make the day a good one, followed by the post-birthday comedown. Bundle of fun, aren't I? On the other hand I keep telling myself that it's possible to enjoy yourself any old day of the year, that a birthday isn't your one shot at a fun time (see, when it's written like that my squirminess seems really ridiculous); and besides, two interesting things are happening: on my birthday itself the government will be making its final decision on whether marriage equality will go ahead in New Zealand. Which is a very big deal for a whole layer cake of reasons. Don't make this a Justin Bieber-esque "worst birthday", oh politicians. Plus, as Tim and I have solemnly vowed not to get married until marriage equality goes ahead, anything could happen! Surprise wedding! (There will be no surprise wedding. I'm terrible at bluffing, I promise I'm telling the truth.) Oh, and the next day, I am getting a tattoo! Wheeee! So far everyone I've mentioned it to has been either very excited, or, more amusingly, very politely reserved and pleasant and smiling brightly about it. I have not had anyone say "how will you get a job you're ruining your life and why, why?" but just in case, I have some answers at the ready:
- I'm doing it for the attention
- Because I'm very influenced by the Spice Girls (these two reasons admittedly apply easily to other areas of my life, but not this one)
- I want it. It's my body and I am in control of it, and isn't it lovely to just want to do something and then do it? What is the point? And when did you last enjoy someone questioning what you do with your body?
I can't wait. I can almost feel it. And what am I actually getting tattooed? No big, just a picture of Tim's face, on my face. To scale.
Ha! I've joked about that so often that I'm now scared someone will overhear me and think it's what I really want and organise it for a birthday present or something. Uh, no, what I'm getting is a cat, on my left thigh. I can already feel some "uhhh-huh" from here (and also some "oooh", I see you cat fiends of the internet) and I don't know, it's just what I want. It came to me in a feverish vision one sleepless night in New York in October, and it has stuck with me so persistently that I decided I'd like it to stick with me literally.
My friend Ange (for whom the Twin Peaks party tolls) has officially left Wellington. I'm terrible at goodbyes, I mean even on the smallest scale, I just never want the party to be over. So there is much wallowingly sad sadness. But also a small bit of selfish delight, because she is letting Tim and I booksit her library.
This is maybe a fifth of the books she gave us.
I used to be the most intensely voracious reader as a child. But these days, with sleep feeling like a waste of time and a million things to write, reading hasn't been a thing I've done all that regularly, apart from my monthly book group chosen text. And yet, like Ange had cast a spell on them or something, last week I read four whole books. They consumed me as I consumed them. Taking a trip in another person's brain for a while, I'd forgotten how good it can be. And that all-consuming need to pick up the book whenever you get a spare moment - it has been too long.
The Book of Proper Names, by Amelie Nothomb. I yelled "OH MY GOD" after finishing this. It's incredible. I also related to the main character in many ways. The main character was five years old for a lot of the book.
How to Breathe Underwater, by Julie Orringer. Devastating short stories, just the kind I like with sticky hot summers and awkward teenagers and some religious theory. One story was so weirdly close to home I wanted lie under a table and cry after reading it.
Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay. Dreamy and sinister and full of girlhood and intense friendships and sorrow. Might be too scared to see the movie adaptation, though.
Bonjour Tristesse, by Francoise Sagan. Not nearly as scandalous as the rather skittish blurb on my copy made out, but beautifully worded and excellently sybaritic all the same.
Honourable mention: Who Was That Woman, Anyway? by Aorewa McLeod, which I read for book group on easter Monday. Cantered through it, absolutely loved it.
There are a small number of blogs I really, really read all the time. Le Projet D'Amour is one, as the writing is riveting and the author, Hila, is always writing things I want to, or didn't know I wanted to, read about. My acquiring all these books coincided with my reading Hila's post about the Women Writers Reading Group, and her post about the statistics regarding authors who are women - spoiler alert, their books aren't reviewed or highly regarded as much as those by men. I'd been trying to actively read more books written by women anyway, but this was, like stirring miso paste into scrambled eggs, a delicious intensifier of what was already happening.
I've been txting and tweeting Ange to ask her to continually tell me which book I should read next from her collection, partly because I'm paralysed with indecision and partly because it makes me feel like I'm in a beautiful movie or something about books and hushed correspondence and rainy days (oh, you know what I mean) and so she recommended the first two on the list. Picnic and Bonjour Tristesse are also hers, both of which I chose for myself by picking them up absentmindedly and then suddenly coming to and finding myself sitting on the floor uncomfortably, halfway through reading them. The next one she recommended is Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. The weather is getting icy colder and I am daydreaming about packaging myself in a soft, soft quilt and reading this book. Even right now, while I'm typing. Which is why it took me so long to write this paragraph.
Read anything good lately? I bet Ange has it in the pile she gave us.
Title via: Rose's Turn, the terrifying break-down ending of the musical Gypsy, the King Lear of musicals. The ageless unicorn Bernadette Peters, all raspy brittleness and witchy power, is one of my favourites in this role. Which reminds me, I have a Gypsy Rose Lee biography to read...
The Four Tops, Reach Out (I'll Be There). So achingly perfect. And I am never not endeared by the "rrrrah!" at the start of the first verse.
I watched Pitch Perfect again over the weekend with friends, and yes, there's a lot problematic about it but ugh, so much good. Some stuff, too good. Anyway, I've been watching this clip over and over and over again since, and am not 'fraid to admit it (I really tried to like the original T-Pain song that it's covering but it's just too empty without the allure of a cappella.)
Sara Ramirez (of Grey's Anatomy but also a Tony Award winning Broadway star) has the most killer voice. Here she is singing a song that always makes my heart melt like an ice cream on a hot sidewalk: Meadowlark.
Next time: Ange also gave/lent us that bodacious babe Ottolenghi's new cookbook Jerusalem. It's really, really exciting. I want to make every last thing in it.