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.
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.