This is a story of abject failure.
My forever-lack of a cardinal virtue, a lack I’ve contended with all my life. I’ve been in the ring with it and knocked it out even after it’s had me on the ropes. But every now and then I find myself face to face with the architect of my frustrations, the shadow that follows me on my brightest days.
I lack, and have always lacked, patience.
And so, when I decided to make some egg salad—egg salad! Of all things!—and found myself unable to sit idly by for ten excruciating minutes without prodding, poking, peeling, pretty much playing the perpetual pugilist to patience, I realized that I had been trying to stifle it. For the last two months I’ve tried to conquer patience—and eggs, for that matter—with brute force.
And all I got was a disappointingly undercooked egg, lethargically spilling out of its membrane and onto my cutting board, destined for the trash can.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. If I had to pinpoint a place where it started I’d say it was the labor and delivery floor of the children’s hospital where I was born. That room was so stuffy and mechanical, I had to get out stat. I wept and screamed indefatigably to make sure my parents knew I needed to escape. And when I did, I became impatient to walk, stumbling over and over until I finally put one foot in front of another—and promptly fell to my knees. And then did whatever toddlers do. Toddle, I guess.
There were cuter moments of impatience, I suppose. I stayed up past the babysitter’s jurisdiction to make sure I got the glimpse of my parents I was owed after their return from some dinner. I pestered my mother with questions—specifically, when could I eat miso soup again (my favorite dish from fourth grade to this day)—and scavenged the house for flashlights so that I could read a chapter of a book that simply couldn’t wait until dawn.
But these innocuous manifestations of my impatience don’t hold a candle to the mundanity that I find myself rushing for now. I find myself yearning for a faster-melting snow. I want the trees to blossom sooner. On rainy days I want the sun and when it shines I want the sound of rain so much I find a multi-hour loop of it to lull me to sleep.
But when I cook, I become a demon of impatience. Baking was never for me, and I think this is why. When I see something in a pan, I hear it demand to be messed with. I can only let something sit and simmer or sear when I have another task to immediately attend to. As water boils, I chop my veg. When the pasta cooks, I heat up my sauce. Sounds okay, right? That is until my restlessness inspires me to zhuzh up a sauce with all-too much cayenne pepper, to the point where any sane person would call it inedible, but my pride says otherwise.
This isn’t to diminish the fact that sometimes this works in my favor. Boredom is the root of all creative endeavors, after all. And sometimes the secret ingredient finds its way into my dinner in those moments where I lean against the kitchen counter.
…But not enough to justify the truly egregious mistakes I’ve made due to a simple lack of patience. Here’s the play-by-play:
I wait for the egg to boil. I set a timer for 8 minutes—knowing I’ll take it out at 7, obviously, and eventually taking it out at 6. Erstwhile I prepare a few wholly unnecessary additions to egg salad. Finely chopped celery and carrots? Fine. Rice vinegar to the mayo? More questionable, but we can let it slide. …Tabasco? I had to draw the line. There comes a point in life where you can’t, in good ethic and faith, add more ingredients to egg salad and still call it egg salad.
I realized this and forced myself to stop. I lasted 30 seconds before I took the egg out prematurely.
This is where I’m contractually obligated to say that I didn’t technically boil the egg. Rather, I boiled the water, turned off the burner and then let the egg sit there for about 6 minutes, all told. I did this because I read somewhere that it led to a “better boiled egg.” But that relates to a different sin of mine, overcomplication, one rife with anecdotes that might merit its own story.
Regardless, when it came time to evict the boiled egg from its shell, it wasn’t even close to cooked. It was a half-poached egg, guts spilling all over my cutting board. Certainly not something you could make egg salad out of.
I felt rage towards this avian product of hate. Betrayal by egg. But in that swelling of frustration in my gut, I came to accept the hardest truth of cooking and perhaps that of the human condition.
Sometimes all you can do is sit, and wait.