Food is an enormous part of my identity.
In fact, if a friend was attempting to describe me to another, I am fairly certain it would be something along the lines of this: short girl, talks a lot, obsessed with food. Yep, that’s me.
Surprisingly it has not always been this way. I mean, I have always been a shorty, and have always been a talker, but it wasn’t until much later that I became interested in food. No part of my childhood was spent in the kitchen. I was never really that interested in eating, so it is unsurprising I didn’t ever cook. No sweet childhood memories of making pancakes, batches of cookies, dinner for the family.
I have always had a tendency to get a little bit obsessive though. Not the check-the-doorknobs-twice-before-opening kind of way, just a habit of becoming overly zealous with certain things.
As a teen I was completely and utterly obsessed with Björk. There may be a handful of readers who knew me all the way back then. I bet you are having a little chuckle to yourself. It was ridiculous! Not that I was obsessed with her in particular, but it was my level of obsession that was so absurd. It went well beyond just listening to her music on repeat. I spend all of my spare time hunting down bootleg releases, I dressed like her, did my hair like her, tried to sing like her, I made an enormous shrine with posters of her on my wall (that was particularly psychotic). I pretty much wanted to be her. I suppose I was rather unhappy with just being me.
I also went through a stage of being fanatical about partying. Living off a diet of cigarettes, booze and the like, this obsession was rather destructive – I did it to the degree where it became quite detrimental to my health. I won’t delve too much into that world, but again, I was pretty unhappy being me.
My very first memory in the kitchen slots smack bang in the middle of this period. Most likely I was under the influence, and listening to Iceland’s most famous export. I was quite old to be having a first cooking experience, about nineteen. I wasn’t really eating, apart from the midnight cravings for chicken rolls at 7eleven (night after night, more obsessive behaviour). A friend came over to my house with a batch of eggs – I wish I could remember his name. He showed me how to fry them. Such was the level of my inability, I needed someone to show me how to fry eggs.
I ate 4 fried eggs everyday.
For months on end.
And there you have it, the origin of my food craze, not driven from my stomach or taste buds, but from a long history of fanatical behaviour. Food was just the next obsession. It’s quite funny looking back.
Shortly after this time I was offered a job in a pub kitchen, where a friend of mine was the chef. I distinctly remember my first day, being asked to slice up a box of mushrooms. I honestly had no idea (only a few months earlier I was shown how to fry a bloody egg!). The chef literally had to talk me through the process, step-by-step; get a wet chux underneath the chopping board, hold the knife, secure the mushroom ensuring your fingertips are tucked in, slide knife down the mushroom, etc. It took me hours. They were very patient with me.
I loved it. It was a new art I was aspiring to perfect. I was in charge of chips and salads. I took great delight in slicing and dicing the endless containers of vegetables, as thinly and as uniform as possible. For me, assembling the salad for each order was like preparing a little work of art. I took my job very seriously. And without any thought for taste, I absolutely loved working with food. I liked making it look pretty.
It was a peculiar relationship to have with food, so fervent about it’s presentation yet not a single care for it’s flavour. It carried on like this for quite a while.
Around the same time, my then boyfriend and I had a weekend ritual. Sunday Eggs and Bacon, at the local cafe.
The perfectionist that I was, I became exceeding frustrated at the lack of consistency with my meal from week to week. So much so, I concluded that I was the only person capable of preparing my breakfast exactly the way I liked it. It was the first time I had ever made the connection between me cooking and me eating. It was the beginning of my love affair, a passion that is still so strong.
Why am I sharing all this with you? I’m not even sure. My recipe this week is for my favourite Egg and Caper Sandwich. It got me thinking about how fussy I am with eggs, and how I came to be this way. What a funny journey, from that incapable nineteen year old who first learnt to fry an egg, to this day, fifteen years later, making my favourite egg sandwiches for my son’s birthday picnic.
The recipe comes from a dear friend, who is the most talented chef I have ever known. For Angela, it just an egg sandwich. For me, it is so much more than that – because they are perfect.
And you now know, perfection means a great deal to me.
Egg + Caper Sandwiches
- 4 eggs
- handful of mint leaves, chopped
- 1/8 cup baby capers, rinsed and drained
- couple of big pinches of salt
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1/3 of your favourite mayonnaise (I prefer to make my own)
- 8 slices of fresh sourdough bread
- Start by boiling your eggs. Believe me, I have tried countless methods of boiling eggs, this one is by far the best.
- In a saucepan, submerge your eggs with cold water. Place on high heat and bring to the boil. Once the water comes to the boil, remove from heat and place a lid on the pot. Leave to sit for 7 minutes. Drain and place in an ice bath to cool immediately (you don’t want your eggs to keep cooking!).
- Once cooled, peel the eggs and roughly slice. Set aside in a bowl.
- Add the capers, chopped mint, lemon zest and the mayo to the bowl. You might need more or less of the mayo, depending on it’s consistency, so I suggest you add only half first, mix all the ingredients, and gradually add more mayo if you need to. You want the egg mix to be wet, but not too sloppy.
- Taste for seasoning. This is important. Add salt, and don’t be too skimpy.
- Place your bread out on the counter and butter the tops and bottoms. Spoon on a few tablespoons of the egg mixture into the centre of each bottom slice, spread out gently with the back of the spoon.
- Place the lids on top and cut in half.
Sometimes I add lettuce, when I am in the mood.
Enough for 4 large sandwiches.