Sunday, December 9, 2012

Following Directions

"We are a puny and fickle folk.  Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I poached my first egg, by hand, today.  And, by way of that success, I also poached my second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on, after a while being proud to have enough to feed the family breakfast.

Now, "by hand" doesn't mean I'm Johnny Storm.  But I remember being a kid using a poaching pan on the stovetop, and later I used the microwave version.  To use those, you just pop an egg down into the preformed cup, fill the bottom with water, and heat it till it's done.  Easy-peasy.  If you've ever watched those cooking shows and witnessed the fine art of poaching without the cups, though, you know that there's a finesse, a fineness to doing it by hand.

Turns out it's pretty easy.  But....

The first thing I did was, as usual, look it up online to see how others have been successful at it.  Because, you know, that's one of the first steps of our own success.  It's what we're taught to do: replicate others' achievement.  Right?

So I found sites pretty easily that proclaimed to have "the true secret" to poaching eggs in water.  The trick, all of them I looked at said, is to spin the spoon around the water rapidly to create a whirlpool, into which you gently deposit the egg to be poached.  That, they say, will hold the egg together and make for a super poaching experience.

Yeah, right.

Thing is, I doubted it initially--a gut feeling, which I carefully ignored.  I'd watched the art of poaching eggs on the food network before, and the chefs poach multiple eggs at a time in the same water, which, if this method is used, would require several whirlpools going simultaneously.  I'm no physics expert, though I am a physics major, and I think I can safely call the multi-whirlpool thing a feat of physical impossibility in any normal-sized pot.  But then again, my brain said, those were pros who were cooking sans-whirlpool, while the sites I was reading appeared to be written by amateurs for amateurs, so--surely there's something I don't know, my brain said, overriding my gut.

There wasn't.

I did the first egg precisely like they said--waited for the water to get just right, not boiling but nearly boiling, added a touch of vinegar, and started Ye Olde Whirlpool up in the center.  Dropped the egg into the little tempest, and--zzzziiip!  The white did precisely what I should've predicted it would do, studly physics major that I am.  It spun right off the yolk, pulled by the centrifugal forces of the storm.

Well, that ended up being a nicely-poached yolk, anyway.  It tasted good, egg white or no.

Using that experience, then, as well as my own ideas as well as what I'd seen from the experts, I proceeded to drop two and then three eggs at a time gently into still (and quite hot) water.  It worked perfectly.  It's really not hard to poach eggs, it turns out--you just have to drop them gently and then not panic while the egg sits in the water for a few minutes not doing much.

Oh--and don't blindly follow directions, regardless of what you do.  Writers, you know the perfectly friendly advice about what person to write in, what kind of story to write, how often to blog and Tweet and post to other sites, not starting your story with somebody waking up from a dream, etc.?  They're all wrong.  Well--the one about not starting your story like that is pretty universal.  But the rest--nah.  They're right for the person who wrote them, but odds are they're wrong for you.  What's worked in one story may not work in yours.  What hasn't worked in others, meanwhile, might turn yours into the next best-seller.  Bottom line is to write the story that you want to read.  Cook the eggs you want to eat.  Build the business you want to be a customer of. 


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