There’s more than one way to boil an egg (or care for a parent) during a pandemic

There’s more than one way to boil an egg. Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times / TNS

A recent survey by market research firm C+R Research found that 85% of American consumers report paying more for groceries during the pandemic. Meat, milk and eggs are tops on the list. Maybe bread didn’t make the cut because enough of us are still baking that at home.

Eggs are a staple in my fridge, but we don’t go through a carton quickly. That’s about to change. My mom, who eats eggs like they are giant jelly beans, is about to come live with me.

(Public Service Announcement: Please don’t be an egg hoarder. If I’m going to keep my mom content, eggs are essential.)

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If you let eggs boil too long, they can explode, as Ligaya Figueras' mom found out. An Rong Xu / The New York Times

Credit: AN RONG XU

Credit: AN RONG XU

In a few weeks, life in an already upside-down year will get even more interesting, as I drive to St. Louis, help my widowed, 80-something mom say goodbye forever to her house of 50 years, pack up her favorite rocking chair, walker and suitcase, and bring her to our abode in Atlanta. I’ll have to persuade her to leave behind her cartons of fresh eggs — maybe give them to the neighbors.

Like a lot of adult children with elderly parents, we’ve had to do quite a bit of persuading with my mom lately. She overstayed her time in a house that’s too big for her to tend. It’s time to let someone else tend to that — and to her.

The pandemic has added an extra layer of concern. Luckily, she hadn’t exactly been a social butterfly, even before social distancing and avoiding crowds became a thing. But, the day she left eggs to boil so long that she forgot about them, the water evaporated and the eggs exploded, was a wake-up moment.

Now, it’s time for senior living at a time when putting a senior parent in such a facility comes with great trepidation. Residents of care centers across the country have been hit hard by the deadly virus. My home is the safest solution — at least, temporarily — but, I’ll tell ya: It has me worried.

I want to make sure my mom is happy down here, yet she’s pretty picky (wonder where I got that from). It feels a bit like my first pregnancy. In those months of waiting, I fretted over whether and how I’d be a decent mom. I had nine months to think about it. In this case, I’ve got two weeks to plan.

As those of us who are working and studying remotely — or anyone else primarily housebound during the pandemic — knows all too well, when you are confined, and less mobile, food becomes an event. So, meals for Mom are on my mind.

She once was an avid, from-scratch cook who grew up on honest Iowan fare, but she quit cooking a couple years ago. I’ll gladly assume that role now. The question is: What to prepare?

Dentures aren’t part of the picture, so dishes won’t be limited to liquids and soft foods.

Having grown up in the Depression era, though, she has little appetite for anything fancy. And, for some reason she never has disclosed, she doesn’t have a taste for tacos. We really had to push for Old El Paso as kids.

She likes goulash and chicken adobo, probably because they remind her of my dad.

Mealtimes will be interesting. She’ll be a new face for my husband and me, who have been staring at one another across the table three meals a day for the past seven months.

She might retell the same story, but that’s OK. Perhaps we can eke out a story or two that she hasn’t yet shared — or forgotten.

If she wants to help make dinner, I’m game, but we are not going to let Dorothy boil eggs alone. Also, even old birds can learn new tricks. I want to show my routinized mom that there’s more than one way to boil an egg — so long as you don’t let ’em explode.

"Amboy: Recipes From the Filipino-American Dream" by Alvin Cailan has a recipe for boiling eggs. Courtesy of Wyatt Conlon

Credit: Wyatt Conlon

Credit: Wyatt Conlon


Alvin Cailan’s Hard-Cooked Eggs
  • 12 eggs
  • Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the eggs and let them boil for 7 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice and water. Pull the eggs out of the pot and dunk them in the ice bath for 15 minutes to stop the cooking. Run the eggs under cold water, peel, and, I promise, you will have perfect hard-cooked eggs every time.

Excerpted from “Amboy: Recipes From the Filipino-American Dream” by Alvin Cailan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Cal Peternell’s Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Bring a few inches of water to a boil. Add eggs, using a spoon to gently lower them in, and set the timer for 9 minutes (or 8 minutes if you like the yolk a little softer). When done, they can be rinsed in cold water for immediate peeling, or left in the shell to peel and eat later. Eggs can be hard to peel, especially if they are very fresh. To ease the operation, tap cooked eggs on the counter to crack the shell all over, and then put them back into the pan with cold water. After 10 minutes they should peel properly.

Excerpted from “Twelve Recipes” by Cal Peternell (HarperCollins)

Wylie Dufresne’s Six-Minute Eggs
  • 2 kilograms (4¼ cups) water
  • 15 grams (1 tablespoon) distilled white vinegar
  • 15 grams (2½ teaspoons) kosher salt
  • 6 eggs
  • In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat and add the vinegar and salt. Carefully drop in the eggs and cook for 6 minutes. Shock immediately in an ice bath. Let cool.
  • Peel and store on paper towels until ready to use.

Excerpted from “WD~50” by Wylie Dufresne (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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