February 27, 2012

the secret ingredient.

The kitchen is warm and cozy and I offer to make eggs, pulling the carton out of the fridge and cracking one, two, ten eggs into the bowl. The shells find a place in an empty pan and the silver whisk turns in my fingers. I sprinkle the salt and add a dash of pepper, and then add the secret. A smidge of sugar. I was making eggs and my mom said, "wait! you don't know the secret." So she whispered it to me and I laughed and she laughed and we laughed together.

"Is that what makes them fluffy?" I ask, half-jokingly. She laughs again and shakes her head. "Yes. And no. I don't know what it does -- probably nothing, but that's how my grandpa made them. That's how we make scrambled eggs." She says it likes its the surest thing in the world and somehow, it makes such perfect sense that all I can do is add a pinch more sugar.

Because that's how my great-grandpa did it. That's how my grandpa does it. That's how my mom does it. That's how I do it. That's just how we do it -- my family and me. It's these traditions that truly make life sweet; these way-we-do-its passed down that separate the ordinary from the special. Food sometimes is an anchor to our past, and in this case, I can see my mom, young and wide-eyed with her grandpa in the kitchen. Him leaning down and saying, "now here's the secret."

The little things like remembering that her grandpa always made scrambled eggs with a pinch of sugar are the memories that we hold onto. And maybe, just maybe, it's the reason why homecooked meals tastes the best. They may not always be restaurant quality, but there's something about them that that's better than the fare of kings. They have memories and traditions baked into them that no restaurant can ever hope to come close to.

We all have our secret ingredients. This is one of mine.