It’s inexplicable. I lost my brother three years ago and Marty’s illness should be so insignificant in the scheme of things. Yet here I am weeping my eyes out. How can something so small be so important? How can something that takes up no room at all take up so much space? The silence is deafening, the apartment empty of his presence and we rattle around in like lost souls. We try to gather our senses and put it all into perspective but, as any animal lover knows, he is and has always been, a huge part of our family. In between visits to the clinic, we bide our time, force ourselves to be patient, and carry on with all of the rest. Time seems to move in slow motion, we feel as if we are slogging through mud; patience is all that we have. Patience and distraction.
Monday afternoon, right smack in the middle of our 25th wedding anniversary, we will become owners of a new apartment. Decoration magazines and shop catalogues are strewn across carpets, stacked up in slippery piles on bedside tables and we discuss and argue and haggle, each sure and certain that we have the perfect kitchen in mind. We take long walks around Nantes and I contentedly snap and share photos on Instagram, which I am quickly falling in love with. And falling back in love with my city seen through the eye of a camera. Iphone in hand, always on the lookout for great images to share, I notice details that I haven’t noticed before, hidden sculptures in niches, beautiful facades and funny signs, very cool graffiti and new shops. Even a wedding in progress.
And a diversion! I need very little to distract me: the least little thought or movement, the ping of an incoming email, the expectation of a tweet, the signal of a comment on a Facebook post or just the desire and curiosity to see the latest gossip or political news on Huff Post stops me in my tracks. But a true diversion is heavenly and was much needed this week of all times. I took an early train into Paris Thursday morning and spent a wonderful, wonderful day, despite the chill wind and threatening skies, with David and The One, lunching à la française on roasted chicken, cheesy potato gratin, green beans and ratatouille. And chilled white wine, bien sûr! We talked the day away, pausing long enough and with much regret that the day was so short, to dash to the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens whose beauty had long slipped out of memory and mind, to hug and chat with Renee until it was sadly time to run (literally) to my train for home, much too soon.
And the little dog’s progress is up and down like some out-of-control roller coaster ride. We finally picked him up, brought him home, gave him a warm bath and he is now snuggling in his comfy, cozy, familiar poof. And we wait… once again…patience, patience… to see how each of us live this weekend.
Fried egg sandwiches were a comfort food of my youth. A single, tiny, one-egg omelet placed on white sandwich bread, soft and chewy, slathered with ketchup and eaten on the sly, alone, was my mother’s private treat, something, like her chilled, sugary, milky iced coffee or a bowl of creamed corn soup, that she made and kept just for herself. I learned to make my own and did once in a blue moon when I craved that sensual blend of flavors, the tang of ketchup against the blandness of the egg, when I needed the tenderness, the silence of this perfect snack. I still make one for myself every now and then (although one fried egg sandwich usually leads immediately to a second). Love and comfort between two slices of white.
When we moved to Italy, we discovered a Milan specialty which often replaces it: gently blanched asparagus, slender and green, if you please, lined up on a plate and topped simply with a fried egg sunny side up. Just crack an egg and slide it into sizzling butter in a skillet, salt and pepper and cook until the white is firm, the edges are golden brown and the yolk is just set on the outside but still runny inside. Slide onto the asparagus, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, as much as desired, freshly ground black pepper and a dash of salt and eat immediately.
I have replaced the traditional (and our usual) fried sunny side up with a soft boiled egg, just 5 minutes in order to guarantee that the white is cooked and firm and the yolk stays runny. Gently peel (don’t burn your fingers), place on the tender-cooked asparagus, dust with grated Parmesan, salt and pepper (I used Halen Mon smoked sea salt!!) and serve!
Comfort, love and goodness on a plate. Healthy, light, seasonal, this is a wonderful dish for lunch or as a starter for an elegant meal. Milan-Style Asparagus with Egg and Parmesan is pure sophistication at its rustic best.
Feel free to follow your Milan-Style Asparagus with Egg and Parmesan with a bowl of Tiramisu or a Cherry Prosecco Granità.
6 – 10 stalks of asparagus per serving/person, as desired (slender green asparagus is traditional)
1 large egg per serving/person
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Butter if frying the eggs
Olive oil, if desired
Trim the tough ends of the stalks of the asparagus and discard. Heat a large shallow pan with water (large enough to hold the asparagus) and bring to the boil. Add a large pinch of salt, lower the flame, slide in the asparagus and gently simmer until tender, about 10 minutes depending on the toughness and thickness of the asparagus and how tender you like them). When done, lift out the asparagus with a large slotted spoon, drain and divide among the plates.
For soft boiled eggs (like in the photos), simply boil the eggs on a low boil for 5 minutes, drain and peel off the shell very gently so as not to break the eggs themselves (do this under cool running water or in a bowl of cool water so as not to burn your fingers). Place one egg on top of the asparagus on each plate.
Drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil over each serving of asparagus and egg, dust generously with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and serve immediately.