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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hey, Put This In Your Mouth

I’m what they call, around these parts, a “good little eater”.

This is code, I suspect, for “plate-licker”.

What’s that? You want me to try a taste of something? Sure! What is it? Don’t want to tell me? Okay, I’ll still try it, but if it’s something you know I would’ve had a strong aversion to, I get to punch you in the arm.


Really hard.

There are very few foods – that I’ve tried, anyway – that I won’t eat. Having said that, however, I will tell you that I have no plans to ever eat liver again, a piece of limburger cheese once ruined my day, and I will not eat a hardboiled egg.

Outside of that, sure. I’ll taste what you’re eating.

The fact that I don’t care for hardboiled eggs seems to offend some people.

“What do you mean you won’t eat a hardboiled egg? Why not? What about egg salad? How do you get by without egg salad?”

How do I get by? Very well, thank you. I simply do not like hardboiled eggs. I don’t care if your grandmother made them herself, I’m not eating one.

Now, I may appear to have eaten one, but rest assured that it’s been dropped unobtrusively in my purse while no one was looking.

I will then dab at my lips with a napkin and tell her that lunch was delicious.

But I discovered something the other day. Something about myself and the humble egg.

It's all because Ma made pho.

Ma – and this is her name, we’re not talking about my mother here – made pho.

Do you know about pho?

To call it a “soup” is a disservice, and I won’t stand for it. No, sir, pho is rice noodles, meatballs, pork, shrimp, and beef cooked in a pot you could bathe a toddler in, all covered with a clear broth.

It’s a big bowl of Vietnamese happiness.

Ma brought some to work the other day.

“I brought it for you, too,” she said. “We’ll meet in the lunch room.”

And that’s how I found myself seated in front of a large ceramic bowl filled with things I’d had before, all prepared in an entirely new way. Ma showed me how to add any combination of lime, jalapenos, bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, cilantro, green onions, dried garlic, chili sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet soy sauce…

Pho is a tinkerer’s dream.

And so there I was, stirring and sipping and twisting noodles haphazardly around my chopsticks when I found three ping-pong-ball sized eggs in the bottom of the bowl.

I looked up to see Ma grinning at me.

And not just any grin. A happy, look-I’ve-gotten-you-a-present grin.

Our eyes met, and suddenly she remembered.

“You don’t like boiled eggs!” she exclaimed.

“But what are these?” I said. “Why are they so little?”

“They’re quail eggs,” she said. “If you don’t want them…”

Wait a minute.

Where have I heard this tone of voice before? In my mind’s eye, I suddenly saw my father: “No, no, no,” he was saying, “The porterhouse isn’t good enough for you kids. Here, have a hotdog.”

I speared an egg and looked at Ma. She was smiling.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “These are really good, aren’t they? And you gave me three. Not just one or two, you went out of your way to give me three.”

I thought for a moment. Ma nodded, smilingly silent.

“Hey. You love me, don’t you?” I asked, teasing her. “You gave me three of your favorite things!”

Ma started laughing. “I love quail eggs, but honestly, I forgot you didn’t eat eggs…”

She reached for my bowl, whereupon I made stabbing motions at her with my free chopstick.

“Get away from my treat,” I said, laughing at her. “My friend Ma wants me to try these because she like ‘em.”

And I did it. I popped a whole quail egg in my mouth.

And then I chewed.

And you know what?

I really like quail eggs.

And you know what else?

When people really like you, they give you the best of what they have.

I hope you're having as beautiful a weekend as I am.


CatLadyLarew said...

An so, Pearl discovers that quail eggs are a delightful delicacy. A big bowl of Vietnamese happiness is sounding pretty good right now!

Patricia said...

Aw, that's a sweet story! Love me some pho!

Ms Sparrow said...

How insightful of you to recognize that she was giving you a gift. Most folks would have said "ugh" and insisted on removing the eggs. I salute you!

Secretia said...

Cook up a pot of good things and it will be delicious, even if we don't know what we're eating!

The Retired One said...

Awwww, she really DOES love you....and it was so nice of her....
now make sure you tell her how much you hate diamonds and money too. :-P

mapstew said...

Now you've made me really hungry, for pho sake!! :¬)

happy weekend.


Pat said...

That is so sweet--Ma showing her warm friendship with you by giving you one of her favorite foods and you accepting her gift graciously and appreciating her (and the quail eggs).

The Bad Yogi said...

Sweet story, Pearl. Pho is one of my family's favs: we go to one or another Pho place weekly (big advantage to living in LA.)

Lesley said...

What a lovely story, made my day!

ellen abbott said...

Just makes you feel all warm inside, don't it.

However, I would caution you, just in case you are now feeling cocky about boiled eggs. The one and only time I ate a duck egg (as in a fried duck egg sandwich for lunch), I was throwing my guts up an hour later (no it wasn't spoiled). True, it was not a boiled egg, but still...

Douglas said...

There are eggs and then there are eggs. Faye doesn't like cherry tomatoes or any lettuce other than iceberg or cucumbers or dill pickles. So that stuff is mine. I intend to keep it that way.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I was gonna go on a rant about you not liking crack either because you have never tried it like that nice girl you grew up with who now works nights on the corner but...nevermind. Oh and if you were thinking about it...crack is bad. Don't do it.

Marla said...

"When people really like you, they give you the best of what they have."

I will always remember this, Pearl.

What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing it.

powdergirl said...

Aw, I think I love Ma, what a sunshiney thing to do!

And how nice that you tried the eggs/gifts and liked them!
Everything goes down better with a little splash of friendship, no?

I envy you your open attitudes to food. I have a food issue, I don't really like it much.

Brian Miller said...

ha. wonderful post. love that last thought you leave us with...giving the best. pho sounds good!

Lori E said...

Up here in British Columbia we have a ton of Pho restaurants.
You will now become known as what we call "a Ho for Pho". Enjoy it.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

"When people really like you, they give you the best of what they have."

I love that! Thanks for this great post. Now I'm craving pho. (People may not know that we in St. Paul-Minneapolis have a lot of Vietnamese restaurants, too.)

Irish Gumbo said...

Awww...so true, so true. Lovely post!

(I think it was Jim Harrison that said "only in the Midwest is cleaning your plate considered an act of heroism" True?)

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

I'm with you on the liver (or any organ) and the boiled eggs, Pearly One. Never tried limp burger cheese, nor quail eggs...

Hurray for Ma, and po! And for Pearl's bravery!!!

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

Aw, Ma sounds like a really good egg!
Sorry, I just couldn't resist.
And how proud of yourself are you for trying those quail eggs????

Molly Potter said...

I think I love you enough to give you a marshmallow toasted to perfection.

Please understand that behind the simple offer of the perfectly toasted marshamllow would be a focused trip to the shop where I actually bought what I set out to, memory applied to the money-needed concept, adult supervision gained through nagging so I can be near a naked flame and concentration enough to avoid distraction so I did not burn said marshmallow. Now that's real love.

Lana Banana said...

pho IS phucking phantastic.

my high school was half filipino and half vietnamese and i learned that little lesson a looooooong time ago.

plus, this is almost exactly how i learned that i love beef tongue, rocky mountain oysters and masturbation . . . i was introduced.

Tracie said...

I've never had this delicacy.

You sound like my husband. The only things he won't eat are Sloppy Joes and fresh tomatoes. (didn't mean to rhyme)

Have a great weekend!

Madame DeFarge said...

Blogger ate my first comment. Typical. Quails eggs not my thing, so you are hereby pronounced braver than I could ever be.

Fragrant Liar said...

Pho sure, you are a good egg.

Love what you said about people giving you the best of what they have. That's so right.

IB said...

I love eating pho. It's fun as hell to add things from your pho-"kit"to your bowl as you go. Quite possibly the world's greatest soup.

Lauren said...

Aw! I love this story! It made me all warm and fuzzy. :)
And for the record, I'm not terribly keen on hardboiled eggs either. And don't even try to give me egg salad.
Quail eggs though....this I will have to try!
I hope the rest of your weekend is just as lovely!

SweetPeaSurry said...

That is super duper sweet!! I think I like Ma ... and her Pho too!

Gadjo Dilo said...

I had the same thing with oysters: they went from being the only food I didn't like to being my favourite. That “we’ll meet in the lunch room” has a certain inevitability to it, Ma knew you'd meet your date with destiny!

Daphne said...

That is a super-sweet story. I want some pho RIGHT NOW.

Pop and Ice said...

That was so very sweet of Ma! I chop up hard boiled eggs when making tuna pasta salad. Do you like them when they're a part of something else like potato salad?

Mr London Street said...

And in turn you must really like all of us, to give us such a lovely post. Good work.