Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Grace of the Fried Egg Sandwich


Grace is no respecter of dignity and dignity has no place on your plate when it comes to eating a proper fried egg sandwich.

They're not best approached by thinking, they're too subtle and too simple for that.

Look: Fried egg sandwiches make no sense to the rational mind. Who on earth would put runny-yolked fried eggs between slices of toast and eat the thing as though it were a normal sandwich?! Madness! And laundry bills! As inconceivable as they are, they are perfect examples of God's graces to us because they transcend so many of our human limitations.

Fried egg sandwiches make sense only as a matter of the heart, the soul. They are an elemental thing: Egg, bread, condiments, salt, pepper--these are all basic foods, nothing trendy here, these ingredients are what the world eats every day, has eaten every day for millenia, and will continue to eat.

You cannot find a single country where eggs and bread (or something like it) are unknown. Pick a religion, pick a political structure, it doesn't matter. Pick an environment, a culture, a time--none of these determine the worth or the deliciousness of a fried egg sandwich. A fried egg sandwich stands outside times and seasons and all man-made strictures.

The fried egg sandwich is the great social leveler. A fried egg sandwich is good eaten in freedom or under the jackboot of totalitarianism. A fried egg sandwich calms the mind and enriches the soul no matter if you're rich or poor, high or low, educated or not, smart or simple, man or woman, slave or free. Race is irrelevant. Age is irrelevant. Religion is irrelevant. A fried egg sandwich is as good tasting on the shores of the Colorado river as it is in the jungles of Myanmar as it is on the pampas of Argentina as it is on a glacier in the Antarctic as it is on a nuclear submarine at the bottom of the ocean as it is on the Space Shuttle orbiting the Earth.

No matter if you're a Forbes-listed billionaire or you restock the vending machines at truck stops--the savory runny yellow glory that is the fried egg sandwich is no respecter of persons or shirtfronts.

Fried egg sandwiches never claim to be the be-all, end-all of gastronomy. They're far too humble for that. For cying out loud, it's a sandwich! Yet fried egg sandwiches have a cachet, a down-to-earth attraction and an inner humility--utterly free of pretense--making them welcome and accepted on the poshest of plates as well as wrapped in paper towels (yes, towelsa) and eaten on a crowded subway.

I can name a hundred foods more glamorous--but glamour isn't the point of a fried egg sandwich. Is a platypus glamorous? Of course not. Neither is a fried egg sandwich, and for the same reason.

But what price glamour in the face of a fried egg sandwich? None at all. Only the sad people, obsessed with running endlessly on the hamster wheel of "society," scorn the fried egg sandwich. A fried egg sandwich is an earthy, welcoming, casual piece of eating that laughs off "shoulds" and sham.

It is real eating; wholesome in every way, a method of connecting you, the eater, to what the Japanese call wah, translated as "harmony."

Eating a fried egg sandwich is curiously ennobling. When you're standing there, leaning over the sink, a dish towel or yesterday's t-shirt napkinned on your chest, you are as much a lord of your personal realm as the pope or the president. You've chosen to cast away the unhealthy caring about what other people think and instead you're focusing on what's good. what's immediately in your hands, in your mouth, on your face.

Fried egg sandwiches are not only a satisfying snack or breakfast or even dinner, they are a cure for what ails you, comforting you with their savoy simplicity and wholesome charm. Thus they nourish the spirit as well as the body.

As Benjamin Franklin said about beer, so I say about fried egg sandwiches: They are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy. So, make for yourself or for your loved ones a fried egg sandwich today and step into a quirky mess of God's grace, into the great community of being human, of being a happy child of God, of yolk and running down your chin. And onto your shirt. (The towel never gets it all, really.)

4 comments:

Rozenkraai said...

i like mine with ketchup. and my old cat Inca likes to lap up the yolk that drips back onto the plate.

this was a great piece of work, ken. thank you.

Mark R. Trost said...

This is terrific writing Ken. That you have a gift comes as no surprise. I’ve read you many times on TBD. But that you mingle the comical and theological and philosophical in such an idiosyncratic and entertaining way - is revelatory. I’m impressed and I look forward to reading you. Go man - you’ve got a fan.

Anonymous said...

Ken wrote this after we joked about eggs. This story will always be in my heart.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, the crew would go to the beach for a week on an absolutely bare bones budget, camping out at Assateague Island $4.00 a night and spending days at Ocean City, Maryland. At a boardwalk soda fountain, fried egg sandwiches were a quarter, and with lettuce, tomato and mayo, you pretty much had all the major food groups along with a tasty meal. To the simple life!