Once I was in Cambria on a spring break road trip with my family. The first night I went to hunt and gather dinner at a corner pizza parlor we’d driven past on the way into town, and with 30 minutes to kill until the food was ready, I wandered into an antique shop next door.
I loved all the large, wrought-iron, perfect-for-a-garden items . . . all completely impractical for a family with a small yard on a road trip. But I did find this perfect tiny cookbook gem hidden on a shelf and, for $2.50, scooped it up:
Subtitled The Art Of Egg Cookery From Around The World, this was published in 1973 by the same trio who created The Women’s Lib Cookbook, or Whose Place Is In The Kitchen?, The Men’s LIb Cookbook or Feel Free, and Stewed To The Gills: Fish and Wine Cookery. (Oh, how I can’t wait to track those down . . .)
Structurally, it’s an interesting book. The chapters are Basic Preparations, Breakfast, Appetizers/First Courses, Lunch/Dinner/Late Supper, Accompaniments, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Baking. Recipes within each chapter are credited with their country of origin and seem to be arranged randomly – not by country or even alphabetically. Forced to page through to see what’s really in the book, you see there really are recipes from around the globe: Japan to Russia, through China and India, Israel, Lebanon, Romania, Bulgaria . . . all over Europe from tiny Luxembourg and the Alsace region through France, Germany, Italy, and England over to the U. S. and Mexico.
Naturally, my fascination lies not with the structure or instruction aspects but with the country of origin/recipe combinations. Some are expected: Egg and Caviar: Russia. Pita and Egg: Lebanon. Eggs Bombay, with curry and hot rice: India. Huevos Rancheros, Frittata, and Creme Brulee all belong to the country you suspect. But the French Toast and the Monte Cristo sandwich (a ham and cheese given the French toast treatment) are both credited to the U. S. Some are unexpected but make sense: India’s Chutney Omelette, Germany’s Apple Pancake, Belgium’s Asparagus Pudding.
Distinctions are interesting: Easy Hollandaise and Mayonnaise are credited to France, while the Blender versions are credited to the U.S. Egg Nog is English, while the addition of bourbon turns it into Virginia Egg Nog. Eggs soft boiled, English; poached, French; hard boiled or pickled are German; scrambled, deviled, fried, or mixed with salami, United States.
Other recipe/country pairings are suspect in their bona fides. Egg Salad Aspic (gelatin, clam juice, deviled eggs, bay shrimp, and watercress) is Jamaican. Hmm, I’ve been to there and I don’t think so. Jamaican via colonialism is my bet. The only mention online I could find is similar recipe from a 1968 issue of Spokane’s Spokesman-Review, otherwise it seems to be a disappeared dish. Another recipe that jumps out screaming “colonialism” is the Artichoke Bobatie credited to the Belgian Congo, which existed in that name only from 1908 – 1960. You can find lots of recipes for bobotie online – it’s a common South African meatloaf-type main course with a Southeast Asian influence, usually calling for some combination of minced fruit or chutney, curry, turmeric, or other spices. This recipe calls for artichokes, mushrooms, mayonnaise, and a can of cheddar cheese soup; ingredients that are neither South African nor Asian.
I did come away from the book with a hit with my boys – Eggs Shoyu (Japan). Kid Two loves Japanese food, and for a while I’ve been making him scrambled eggs and sticky rice served with a big sheet of nori so he can make his own maki-style rolls. I’d just never thought of adding soy sauce to the eggs. Here’s the recipe from the book:
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 6 eggs
- 2 teaspoons shoyu
- 1 tablespoon mirin or sake
- Cook onions in butter in a frying pan for one or 2 minutes until onions begin to wilt. Beat eggs, shoyu, and mirin and add to pan and cook until eggs are set. Scramble eggs lightly. Served on hot rice or toast. Serves 3.
I cut the recipe in half to feed just the two boys and substitute a teaspoon of rice vinegar for the tablespoon of sake because I can’t imagine the alcohol cooks off in the few minutes it takes to scramble eggs. With plain white rice it’s easy and healthy, and just different enough from our more typical scrambled eggs and toast to feel special. I add a cup of miso soup to round out the meal – yes, breakfast or dinner.