Philadelphia has a well-established reputation for grit. It worked out well that I spent the ages of 20 to 21 there being flat broke. I had no phone but the pay phone on the corner, no tv, no bed, just a roll mat and a couple of chairs found on the street. My roommate, appropriately nicknamed Crumb, and I, used to ration out food at near famine levels—granted, part of this had to do with my anti-everything attitude and some left over punk rock ethos from my early teens; I could have always just gone back and lived with my mom if I wanted. Also, the beer, tobacco and other recreational supply money always seemed to materialize so don’t ask me where the hell my priorities were. These were different times. Everybody was talking about revolution, our boys were being shipped off to a senseless war, people were finding new ways to live and love… wait, no that was the sixties. Shit, yeah, I really didn’t need to be living this way.
Anyway, the culinary outlook was as bleak as you might imagine. There was a lot of rice and beans, and then basically eggs. The scene in Cool Hand Luke where Paul Newman’s character heroically downs fifty hard-boiled eggs inspired more than one foolish test of bravado. Thankfully Crumb’s British background came into use when he introduced me to a more refined way of eating eggs, Soldier’s and Dippy Eggs.
This appetizer consists of soft boiled eggs with the top cracked off, creating a natural yolk dish for thin slices of toast to be dipped into. Eating these can make even a poor man feel regal. They presented a drastic change from the way I would normally eat hard-boiled eggs and rice in the mornings for mere subsistence after a night of hard drinking. Now, on many early mornings, I’d sit quietly in my chair by the morning light of my room’s window while letting the steam from the egg and tea, and smoke from a hand-rolled cigarette float around my head. A lot of philosophizing and soul searching probably happened inadvertently during those cumulative hours. I would head down the street afterward around 7:30 am to my groveling dishwashers job feeling a bit more enlightened than the position probably called for.
To invoke the vibe of a frugal-zen philosopher, pair with a dark cup of tea such as Earl Grey and a hand-rolled cigarette from decent tobacco like Bali-Shag.
When not playing out this ceremony in silence, the original English bohemian Syd Barrett should add the right feel.
Read below for a bit more on Syd Barrett.
If you don’t know anything about Syd, he was the creative genius behind most early Pink Floyd. In 1968 he was institutionalized for suspected mental illness. After returning from the hospital he produced solo work that I have always preferred to Pink Floyd as a band. You can hear the looseness of his mind in the way the verses and melodies float over the rhythmic structure. The songs all have the pace of a smoky empty room. They sound unpolished and feel like a more direct expression than you would get from a Pink Floyd album. His solo music career was short lived and he spent much of his later life with his mother in Cambridge, England making abstract paintings. I picture him sitting with his mum in a humble English townhouse sharing Dippy Eggs and Soldiers at tea time before heading back upstairs into solitude.
*As you play the record above, try this Jamie Oliver recipe for a slight upgrade involving asparagus. You can also feel free to skip the asparagus and just thinly slice some toast for dipping. Make sure to have plenty of salt and pepper on hand. If you don’t have egg cups you can use regular cups or ramekins filled with rice to hold the egg upright. You can also just tear off a section of the egg carton and place them in there.
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 4 large free-range eggs
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- crusty bread
Place a large griddle pan over a high heat. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus, then add to the pan in an even layer and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender, turning occasionally.
Meanwhile, put the eggs into a medium pan, cover with cold water and place over a high heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 3 minutes for runny eggs. Meanwhile, get your egg cups ready – dippy eggs will wait for no one once they’re done! Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the eggs and place in the cups, then tap each shell gently with a teaspoon and remove the tops. Serve straight away, with the griddled asparagus for dipping, salt and pepper on the side, and bread to mop up, if you like.
Enjoy, and please share your results!
Recipe from http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/eggs-recipes/kerryann-s-dippy-eggs-asparagus-soldiers/#RRmcZGTSBQUV3EEC.97