I have two pink slabs of salmon in the fridge, and a bowl of baby Brussels sprouts, rinsed and dried, on the counter. Eli will be home soon from the climbing gym. He’ll turn on the shower and undress while the water warms, and I’ll slide the sprouts into the oven that’s been heating since the call that he was – that he will be – on his way home. I’ll wait until the pipes are silent and I hear the scrape of the shower curtain, and then I will heat the oil and lift the salmon into the pan. Unless Eli is very hungry. If he is very hungry, he will probably go right for a handful of dried apricots, which he won’t have realized that I have moved from the table by the sofa, where he left them last night, back to the pantry. He’ll figure it out. He’ll walk from the table by the sofa to the pantry, which is actually a deep closet off of the room that we call his office, which is actually a room off of the kitchen that’s supposed to be a dining room. Eli’s desk is in there, the one he built in a woodshop in Seattle, and my grandmother’s piano, and a wooden buffet, and a red chair. (Our table, the almost-square one that we bought up on the North Shore where we were married, is in the living room, between the windows and the fireplace. “We do our eating in the living,” I never say, but I think it sometimes, and I like the way it sounds, unspoken.) Eli will find his apricots and join me in the kitchen, and skip the shower until after we’ve eaten. He’ll tell me something that will make me laugh, something small that, right now, an hour or so before he says it, I can’t wait to hear.
The salmon is in the fridge, and the sprouts are rinsed and dried. I’ll get the call; I’ll heat the oven. But first, I’ll sit and write – I’ve sat and I’ve written – for a few quiet minutes, about the salmon, and the sprouts, the apricots and the shower, and now, about egg salad, too, the egg salad that I made last month, and then promptly forgot, until I picked up a roll of film on Sunday, a pack of slides, actually, and found this frame, tucked between the Wish Tree at the MoMA and a blurry pan of anchovies:
I saw that egg salad, remembered it, and made it for lunch on Monday. I made it for lunch on Tuesday, and I would have again on Wednesday, and maybe even again today, but enough was probably enough. Egg salad haters everywhere will tell you that there is a lot to hate about egg salad and, if they’re referring to egg salad about which there is, in fact, everything to hate, egg salad haters everywhere will be right. But I don’t care to discuss it. It would only ruin your appetite, and mine, and undermine the egg salad that I do care to discuss, an egg salad about which there is precisely nothing to hate and, more precisely, very much to love.
The sauce is Hellmann’s mayonnaise – it really must be Hellman’s – and a fat dab of Dijon mustard, which for me, means Grey Poupon. It’s a vinegary, briny egg salad. The vinegar’s in with the mustard, the brine, on the skins of the capers that I shake into my palm. I let the liquid drain between my fingers, and tip my hand; the capers drop, and scatter when they hit the chopped egg. Into the bowl: A grind of black pepper. Into the bowl: A tuft of fresh dill. Into the bowl: A pinch of flaked sea salt that, against the twinge of vinegar and brine, is unexpectedly sharp. Next time, I’ll do without.
I guide a stack of water crackers from a plastic sleeve and bury them into the salad at the side of the bowl. I sit at the almost-square table in the living room on Monday, and on Tuesday, in the red chair in the dining room (that room off the kitchen with no table, a desk, and a piano). I rest my feet on the radiator that isn’t too hot.
I am very hungry.
Egg Salad with Capers and Dill
Here is the hard boiling technique that I use to get yellow yolks (cooked through, but not dry), tender whites, and shells that peel right off: Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with about an inch of water. Heat to the barest simmer. There shouldn’t be bubbles. You don’t want your eggs knocking around in there. It is important to keep the temperature of the eggs relatively low as they cook. Also, for easier peeling, use older eggs. Harold McGee can tell you why. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and, with a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked eggs directly from the pot into the cold water.
I take my time and use a very sharp knife when chopping my eggs so that the pieces are fairly uniform in size.
2 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 Tbsp Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 heaped tsp capers
Ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of flaked sea salt (optional; taste before adding)
Mix the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl. Gently fold in the chopped egg with a spatula. Top with the capers, dill, black pepper and, if using, salt.
Serves one, for lunch.
Serves two, for a snack.