Thursday, 17 January 2013

Eggs and Mrs David and snow

This morning, I cracked open an egg when making my breakfast omelette to find a double yolker.

To be fair, I had expected it, setting aside the egg in question until I was cooking something for which it would be better suited than being prepared to sit in an egg cup.

It was a vast thing, that egg – XL to start with – with an elongated shape, so that it was hardly the stuff of rocket science to guess that it would have two yolks.

In which case, I had a three-yolk omelette without breaking more than two eggs.

I follow the venerable Mrs David’s instructions on omelettes – well, to be more accurate, the instructions from someone else that she reproduces, crediting them and saying that she can do no better.

Reading and following those instructions was the point at which I finally learned to make an omelette – albeit further aided by investment in a proper heavy-duty, copper-coated omelette pan from across the Channel.

So you start by melting a good knob of butter and letting it just reach the foaming, might-be-about-to-start-turning-golden-at-any-minute stage, before you lob in your lightly beaten eggs: two plus one yolk, if you’re following many traditional recipes. Double yolkers excepted, I usually just use two: it’s quite enough for me.

From then on, it’s going to take about 40-45 seconds, as you raise the pan from on one side and then the other, gently lifting the egg mix to allow the uncooked, liquid egg to reach the base of the pan. But not much longer – you want it to still be silkily soft.

And then turn out carefully onto your plate, season and consume – although not with Mrs David’s glass of wine at that time of the day.

Actually, this morning’s omelette had a new seasoning: I wanted to use up some lumpfish ‘caviar’ and decided to garnish it with that, which added quite enough of a salty taste to the egg.

I remember seeing double yolks way back in the days when the family eggs came from one of the farmers that my father knew.

It’s funny how you forget such things, and only remember when something actually jumps up and slaps you across the metaphorical chops. When we started getting our eggs from Matthew was the point at which I remembered how good eggs can be.

And when I cracked the first double yolker from an egg I’d got from the same source – Black Rock hens, organic and free range, if you’re interested – it was as a case of: ‘oh gosh – I’d completely forgotten that such things occurred’.

But memories of eggs and farms also mean memories of snow for me, which is equally apt, given the UK weather forecast right now, and that I am due to be northbound for work tomorrow.

When we lived in Mossley – in the top half of that small mill town of 10,000, which was spread along the east-facing side of a Pennine hill, the valley and up into the opposite hill, we entirely expected to get cut off for a day or so once or twice a winter.

But one year – I cannot recall whether we were cut off at the time – the road up to a farm near Hartshead Pike was impassible for my father in his car. So I was sent, on foot, to collect the eggs.

I yomped up the road to opposite the parish church, before breaking away into a field and up a steep hill that was several inches deep in snow.

On the way back, I slipped, and ended up careering down the same slope some way on my backside.

When I got home, my mother (who, these days, is slightly embarrassed by this story) was only concerned about one thing – whether I’d broken any of the eggs! They were all intact, as it happened – just as I was. But I did feel a certain sense of being piqued at the priorities revealed.

Not that that was the only time that snow left me with a story to tell in those times.

I’d probably only been at Fairfield High School for Girls – some eight miles from Mossley, near the centre of Manchester – for a year or slightly more, when the white stuff had a big impact.

It was a Thursday – you’ll see later why I know this. There had been a trifling hint of snow at school. Only when I left for home at the usual time did it become an issue.

Indeed, it only became an issue well beyond Aston-under–Lyne, which was where I changed buses and, therefore, the halfway point of my daily journeys.

I was three quarters of the way home, then, near the old Ladysmith Barracks, when the bus stopped and the driver announced that he could go no further.

The reason was the snow, which had fallen heavily and drifted across the road that hugged the hill for a mile or so before dipping into top Mossley – near where I’d left the road to head for the farm and those eggs.

I was on my own.

Pulling the hood of my Air Force blue duffle coat up, I headed on up Mossley Road, the hill to my right, the fall away to Ashton Golf Club to my left, Hawkshead Pike ahead, and cars stranded in the deep drifting snow.

I reached a stranded bus and took a break inside, where I met a woman who took me – and a couple of other girls – under her wing.

We plodded on, taking a further break in another bus, before hitting the top of the town.

Almost the first buolding you hit coming from that direction is – or at least was – a pub. She took us all inside and the landlord gave us hot blackcurrant drinks.

From there, it was a short way home, albeit over icy roads.

I remember getting back, covered in the snow that was still falling thickly, and standing at the front door, ringing the bell, waiting to be let in.

When my mother opened it, the first thing she heard from this short, stocky yeti was whether Top of the Pops had started yet.

I had no watch; we had no mobile phones or tablets or computers. I had no clue as to the time. But that was why I know that it was a Thursday.

Thereafter, for my remaining time at Fairfield at least, the first hint of snow on the school fields would see the Mossley girls sent home straight away.

Nearly 40 years later, I remember that adventure with pleasure. I don’t think I was ever scared during it.

And perhaps it also explains why I never think of snow with anything other than relish.

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