I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my sister-in-law, Ann Marie. We’re at her house in McLean, Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac River from my parents who live in Bethesda, Maryland. We’re chatting about the news of the year, since it’s the next-to-last day of 2017. The subject of all the fallen giants bubbles up. I don’t recall which of us raised it. We run through the list of transgressors, Harvey, Matt, Kevin, Louis, Al, Garrison, knowing that we’re leaving some out. Wouldn’t they be relieved?
I sigh. “It’s weird with some of them. They just seem like good guys. I guess it just shows something about people in the public eye. You really don’t know them.”
“I don’t think you really know anyone,” says Ann Marie. “I mean, really. We have all these friends and relatives that we think we know, but some of them we see a few times a year. Sure, it’s more than that if you count Facebook, but we don’t really know them.”
So true, I thought. I could take a deeper dive into this pool, but I’m slicing, here, so I’ll hold off. It occurs to me that we had many examples of this during the holiday, but I’ll focus on one.
The evening before, we were sitting in my parents’ apartment. It’s four miles from Ann Marie’s house as the crow flies, only about 15 minutes as the car drives, for that matter, but for some reason this is the first time in thirty years that we’ve seen both families on the same trip. Odd how wide that river can seem.
We’re talking about breakfasts, because Ann Marie has been serving us feasts each morning, as though we’re at a bed and breakfast. Nancy, my wife, is mentioning how she and Sarah are not really breakfast people, while I’m saying, for the benefit of no one, since everyone in the room knows this, that I happen to be a big breakfast person.
“He always has been,” says my mother. “So, ever since he was very little, we said, ‘Okay, here’s how you make scrambled eggs, and here’s how you make french toast, and here’s how you make an omelet.’ Ever since then, he’s been able to make his own big breakfasts.”
This amuses Nancy. It seems almost sneaky on the part of my mom, tricking me into doing the cooking. But then again, it appeals to her, this idea that I was a willing student, with an appetite for learning. “He’s pretty good with the eggs,” she concedes, conspicuously omitting all of the things I’m not “pretty good with.”
“Yeah, and don’t forget the egg nog,” I add.
“You made egg nog?” My daughter Sarah is not a fan of eggs.
“You made egg nog?” My wife is not a fan of egg nog, but she’s also dubious because of the effort that involves.
“Yeah, but not always for breakfast. Sometimes I had it as like a fourth meal at night?”
“A fourth meal? Geez, how often did you make this stuff?” Sarah is getting more disgusted by the moment.
“I don’t know. Once or twice a week for a few years.”
“What?!” Now Nancy is alarmed. “Wasn’t that a bit of a chore?”
“Not really.” I proceed to explain my process. “You know, you just get about three eggs, drop ’em in the blender, add some milk, a little sugar, and a drop or two of vanilla. I never bothered with the nutmeg (yuck) or the alcohol (underage).”
“Wait, you didn’t heat the eggs?” Nancy is both alarmed and grossed out.
“Wait, three raw eggs?” Sarah is nearly gagging. “Didn’t it taste awfully…eggy?” This is accompanied by the face of distaste that daughters are so good at making towards their parents.
“It tasted kind of like vanilla ice cream,” I say.
“Why did you do that?” Sarah can not get her mind around this idea of voluntarily consuming something so blatantly egg-ish.
“I was a skinny teenager. I wanted to gain weight. It was much more tame than Rocky’s routine.”
Nancy is sure that is neither the correct nor the safe way to make egg nog. She is sure there should be cooking involved. She even tosses out the word “tempering” to show that there is a proper verb for what I was supposed to have done with those three eggs. I offer to Google it. The first recipe is almost identical to what I had said. No cooking or tempering involved. Nancy is dubious. “What’s that, the ‘cooking hacks for lazy people’ web site?”
“No, it’s Ask.com. It has nine thousand likes.”
“Yeah, well, try something that has some cooking cred. Is there an Alton Brown recipe? He does things the right way.” I look up Alton Brown, and sure enough he has a recipe. Sure enough, he also has his own, more meticulous method. It involves separating the eggs, whipping the whites, and folding them into the mixture. BUT, there is no cooking or tempering.
“HA!” I shout, vindicated. “Oh wait.” At the bottom of the recipe, he has an alternate method, for those who don’t like the idea of uncooked egg. It uses the word “tempering,” too. “Rats. Well, it’s not his first method. It’s just his alternate.”
“Wait, you used THREE raw eggs?” Sarah again. I believe this is called perseverating.
The argument is settled, sort of, but Nancy is still looking at me in an odd way. “You know, what’s weird is that I’ve known you for 36 years. I think I know pretty much every story about you. How is it that I never knew you loved to guzzle raw-egg egg nog as a kid?”
Now I can say, “You know, Nancy, a wise person from the other side of the river once said to me, ‘I don’t think you ever REALLY know anyone.'”