Saturday, May 29, 2010

Egg on Toast

The other morning, I had a head ache. There was only one thing I wanted. Egg on toast. I went downstairs to the kitchen, dug through my pots and pans and found the small sauce pan. I filled it with water and put two eggs in it. I turned on the fire and waited until the water just began to boil. Then I set the timer for three minutes and thought of Mother.

Egg on toast was my mother's remedy for anything. Egg on toast. Not soft boiled egg on toast. Just egg on toast. As I stood in the kitchen waiting for my eggs to boil, I put two pieces of wheat bread into the toaster. I could see my mother's arthritic hands. I could see her open the bread bag. I could see the plate - always a small one sitting waiting to be of service. Egg on toast doesn't take up a lot of space on the plate so a large, dinner size is just too big. Egg on toast served on a dinner plate does not taste as good as on a little plate. Egg on toast is best, frankly, with white toast. That's what I grew up with - but I fix mine on wheat toast. The texture isn't quite right, but it's my bow to healthy eating.

Once the timer went off, my mother would pour the water out of the pot and then she would scoop the egg out with a large spoon and run cold water over it to cool it. Then she took a knife, and with a clean, sharp hit to the side would crack the egg and scoop out the somewhat runny yoke and white with the knife onto a buttered piece of toast. She repeated this move with the second egg. Then she would kind of chop up the egg - so that it spread over the entire piece of toast. But here is what made the meal so delectable.

After both eggs were dumped onto their respective pieces of toast, she salt and peppered them liberally. Then with the knife and a fork would lift one of the pieces of toast onto the other to make it a double decker. Then, she cut the two pieces into bite sized squares. This is the only way I can eat egg on toast. Cut up.

Now my daughter, to whom I passed this family breakfast recipe, eats her egg on toast differently. A rebel, she does not stack the toast, nor does she cut them into bite size pieces. She cuts one bite at a time from a whole piece of toast. I think she is missing out but you know how the younger generation is.

I'm heading down now to fix egg on toast for breakfast.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Three Questions

I've heard a lot of graduation speeches in my life. I can't remember a word of any of them, though I could probably sum up their content by inserting a few platitudes, jokes, and lofty words of wisdom. I can't remember ever thinking, "I'd like to hear that graduation speech again!" until Friday, when I sat in a sea of cardinal and gold, listening to the president of USC, Steven B. Sample speak to the class of 2010.

His speech was short. His words were simple. His message profound. His lesson lasting. He asked three direct questions. How do you feel about money? How do you feel about children? How do you feel about God?

As he spoke, it was impossible not to reflect on my own set of beliefs. I'd never made the connection between these questions and the choices I have made in my life.

Sample did not offer any pat answer to the questions. He did not preach any self righteous judgement about how one should answer the questions. He simply suggested that if one is able to answer for one's self each of these questions, they will lead to greater self knowledge. Like a compass, these questions have the power to lead one in a direction that can truly benefit human kind. At the same time, if one is able to answer these questions, it is likely they will feel more fulfilled in the choices they make in their lives.

It was especially surprising to hear the president of secular institution address the question of God. Whether one is a believer, agnostic, or atheist, it makes complete sense to know what one believes rather than to avoid the question altogether. And that, in my estimation, was the brilliance of his speech.

Any one who knows me, knows that Rilke is my favorite sage. Many of my students have received from me copies of Letters to a Young Poet for a graduation present, book marked at the page where Rilke says, "Live the questions."

In his speech, Steven B. Sample, imprinted on the memories of thousands of people sitting and standing outside Doheny Library on the grounds of the University of Southern California three simple questions that when asked force each person to confront the choices they have made and will make in the future.

I have only begun to examine my own answers to these questions. Three questions that will for the rest of my life, serve as my compass. I am grateful that my son will never forget the words of the speech delivered on the occasion of his commencement. Those words proved that his education was worth every cent we paid. Fight On!