Through the Looking Glass: Coming Full Circle
By Eli Raphael
Published on Friday, September 14, 2012
My mind fell out of my pocket the year I turned four, and I didn’t bother picking it up again. It was a year of great violence and great love. My sister Hannah was six, and she was a culinary wiz — her signature dishes included cream-cheese-and-jelly sandwiches on an English muffin (weird but good), microwaved bananas topped with yogurt and raisins (odd but tasty) and fried eggs with mayo and hot sauce (bizarre but delicious). My parents, locked in the embrace of their hurricane of a relationship, had barely enough time to eat in between fights and make-ups, let alone cook for us.
Hannah picked up the slack. We became a little codependent. I couldn’t eat an egg without her. I hated yolks, and she hated the whites. And while part of her was pragmatically not wasting food, another part was protecting her baby sister from the dusty, disappointing sadness of a dry yolk.
My sister’s cooking and my parents’ fighting suddenly stopped the year I turned four, when I was diagnosed with a mile-long list of illnesses and allergies. Wheat? Amateur — check. Corn? Yep. Soy? Of course. Dairy? Why not! Oats, peanuts, pine nuts, pollen, cats, grass, dust mites, rice? Obviously. (Seriously. Who is allergic to rice?!) So three things happened at once:
My mom’s need to protect me from allergens trumped her need to fight with my dad — they divorced.
My sister was no longer my keeper, and during those times we once had laughter and food, now there was only a divide, which led to:
My personal sense of isolation; I became “That Allergy Girl.”
There were a couple of things to be thankful for: I could still eat bacon (essential), and I wasn’t allergic to eggs. But all the bacon in the world couldn’t prepare me for the disorientation of entering my teenage years. Years of heavy medication and hospital visits didn’t help with assimilation, and by the time I graduated high school, I was as awkward and immature as the first day of ninth grade.
And so as many of us were, I was confused and stupid when I came to Dartmouth. That feeling of being unprepared. That sense that everyone here is smarter than you. That fear that, even though you have friends, anything might change that — D-Plans or rush or the wrong hook-up. My freshman and sophomore years at Dartmouth were characterized by those worries. Fearing outside isolation, I preemptively isolated myself. I didn’t go out. I didn’t talk to people in my classes. My friends were my freshman floor, and while they were great friends, they were also a safety net.
This is the point in the story when I’m supposed to talk about my rebirth during sophomore year. I suppose this could be a column about death and rebirth. I already mentioned eggs, and what better symbol for renewal and perfect circles? But that would be misleading, because ultimately, this is a story about the imperfect, about the different, about the weird.
I mentioned that change sophomore year but didn’t explain how. I had pulled an all-nighter in the library, wandering for hours around deserted, echoing Novack, periodically studying, writing and staring out the window. The sun rose orange through the clean haze behind Dick’s House. It made my heart ache a little bit, and suddenly, I was ravenous and my mouth was watering, and all I could think about were eggs. I packed up and stepped outside.
It was cold. Dirty, slushy snow seeped into my boots, and I didn’t care. It was 7 a.m. I hadn’t slept in 30 hours, and I was on my way to the Hop for some fried eggs with drippy yellow yolks, splashed with Frank’s.
My taste buds had shifted. It was the first time I had ever eaten a whole egg without Hannah by my side.
So now we’ve come full, wobbly, imperfect circle, just like the shell of an egg. And even though you can’t get fried eggs at the Hop anymore (RIP), you can easily make them in your dorm or apartment. The recipe can be doubled or tripled to feed multiple friends, but sometimes it’s nice to just be alone at dawn, eating your eggs in peace.
Perfect Fried Eggs Serves: As many lucky people as you’re willing to cook for Ingredients:
Two eggs per person
One tbsp. butter per two eggs
One tbsp. water per two eggs
Salt and pepper
Hot sauce and mayo, to serve
Get a pan that’s not too big, not too small. Melt butter with water over medium-low heat. Gently crack the eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed for about one minute, until the edges are beginning to set, but most of the whites are still transparent. Cover with a lid for two minutes. Uncover. Poke the yolk with your finger — it’s done if it gives like a water balloon. Plate. Bask in your friends’ delight; glory in the runny-yolked perfection. This is happiness.
Eli Raphael ’13 doesn’t know either, but she is learning to like it that way.