Eggs are easy

Cooking for one, with an egg on top.

And for dessert...salad with an egg on top. —Lily Cowper

Cooking for one is so inefficient and lonely, but everyone experiences it at some time or another. I suppose it’s better than cooking for seven.

I found out recently someone invented this term for self-taught artists — “primitive.” These untrained artists ended up founding the Primitive Art movement. I found the term a little offensive at first, but came to realize the power of untrained individuals. Unexposed to traditional methods, they’re forced into creativity, and still come out with powerful results. Because of my lack of skills, and my aversion to being reliant on others, I adopted this term for myself and I made it my kitchen mantra.

I’m calling it primitive-style cooking. In this philosophy, we primitive cookers think about our roots as ancient hunter-gatherers. How did our predecessors know when the meat was done, what type of knife to cut herbs with, or when to finish boiling the egg? And how did they know to boil the egg in the first place?

I find the egg the most puzzling piece of cooking history. When it first came out of the chicken (or when the chicken first hatched from the egg), how did we react?

Somehow we evolved into a culture that solves every cooking disaster with this ingredient. When in doubt, put an egg on it.

I don’t cook often enough, which is silly, because it’s not that hard to chop up a few vegetables and throw them into a pot. Just use a little more salt than you think is right, and trick the food into thinking you know what you’re doing.

The other day at the grocery store, I grabbed a few veggies for my chopped salad. Half of them I know are good, and half of them I thought looked interesting. After all, salad is about the aesthetics.

Like everything I do, my slicing is inconsistent. I hacked the veggies to pieces, because I like food to be in its smallest form. Some pieces were fatter than others, and they were all different shapes. Then, somehow, when I threw it in a wooden bowl, it looked great. My salad already had avocado, which added some moisture, but I threw in a little oil and lemon just to see what would happen, as well as some salt and pepper. Then, after two tries, my hard-boiled egg was done, so I added that to the top. Voilà.

Mushroom and scallions noodle stir fry with a fried egg as its centerpiece. —Lily Cowper

I tried another egg-added meal recently, the kind you get in Chinese restaurants. I’ve been missing noodles lately, which were once my go-to, so I decided that was a good base. After I cooked them, you’ll never guess what I did. I threw an egg in. Literally, I just cracked it and plopped it in, which I’m sure is not correct. I poured the water out, because the egg bits in the water weren’t very appetizing. I wished the egg was easier to handle. Its cool exterior is misleading. I let it sit in the pan with my noodles for a little bit to think about what it had done. And I thought about my next move.

I decided to sauté some mushrooms with oil in a separate pan. Again, I added more salt than I first thought was necessary. Once they were brown and juicy, I added the noodles in with them. Then I added some scallions, for my greens. It was a nice-looking mixture, which I added some more salt to. Then, of course, I added my egg, sunny-side up, on top of the stir-fry.

English muffin with an over-easy egg and beach plum jelly. —Lily Cowper

In the morning, I was back to basics, which was still the egg. My aunt makes a great hollandaise sauce, but I haven’t quite prospered to that level yet. I just want to note that it’s my favorite egg-inspired condiment. For a simpleton like me, my breakfast is always an over-easy egg on an English muffin.

I sometimes think about the adaptability of eggs. A hard-boiled egg for the speedy conservative bunch. A fried egg for the loud and messy. An over-easy for the easygoing. Next time you crack open an egg, consider your options. Don’t just choose your egg, let your egg choose you.