Monday, 9 January 2012

The Treachery Of Things

I love soft-boiled eggs with gooey yolks, and I'm generally good at getting them just right. Yes, I know there's a risk of salmonella, but for the pleasure of eating a runny yolk, I'm prepared to live dangerously and take a walk on the wild side. So last week, I boiled four eggs, following my normal soft-boiled protocol: I put the eggs in a small, deep pan filled with cold water which I slowly brought to the boil. Then I turned off the burner and let the eggs sit for a few minutes.  To my great disappointment, three of the eggs, when opened, proved to be hard-boiled, the yolks as tough as shoe leather.

My husband and kids ate them. They aren't as fussy as I am when it comes to eggs.

There was no way I was going to eat a hard-boiled egg, so I put my egg, uncracked, back into the refrigerator. The next day, I decided to make egg salad for sandwiches, so I took out my hard-boiled egg. I also boiled two more eggs; if you're going to make egg salad, go whole hog, right? I boiled these two eggs for a full five minutes, even setting the timer. I know that you're supposed to boil them for ten minutes, but all my life, I've settled for five and the eggs have generally come out hard-boiled.

When the timer went off, I pulled out one of the eggs and peeled it, but I could tell that it wasn't properly hard-boiled yet, so I popped it back into the boiling water and boiled both eggs for another three minutes. By which time, the yolks should have been hard enough to bounce off the floor, but no: when I opened  them, I found that the yolks were gooey. And even more surreally, the egg which had been in the refrigerator had a gooey yolk too. All of the eggs were the same size: I swear it. The altitude of our house has obviously not changed, and I can't imagine the chemical composition of the water was significantly altered in 24 hours.

When I wanted gooey yolks, I got hard. When I wanted hard-boiled eggs, I got drippy. Call me paranoid, but I put this down to the Treachery of Things.

Have you ever noticed that when you drop something, it quite often skitters out of your range of vision and disappears?  Moreover, the distance the dropped item travels and the time and difficulty involved in tracking and retrieving it will be directly proportional to the importance of the item. If, for instance, you drop a paper clip you don't particularly need on a floor that is already cluttered, it will be right there at your feet. If on the other hand, you drop a paperclip you do need, or the back of one of your favorite gold earrings, say, or the cap off a tube of expensive super-glue, or the tiny screw you need to repair the only glasses you have with you on a vacation when you are intending to do a lot of reading -- it's a different story, isn't it?  A great deal of time will be spent on all fours, bent over awkwardly, your questing hands coming into unpleasant contact with icky things stuck to the floor as they grope around, vainly, in spider-lurking crevices and corners.

Some people call this Murphy's law, but I call it The Treachery of Things. The laws of physics can be bent, and they are bent by things, quite capriciously. Things know when you want them a certain way -- or when you just plain want them -- and they can't resist toying with you. This is why the needle and thread you always carry in your backpack will mysteriously vanish on the one occasion you need them to tack up a hem that has decided to unravel when you are due to give a speech in front of 200 people, only to be found when you are searching for the missing VCR, under the cushions of your sofa. This is why the magic marker you finally locate on the one day your class is being observed, will turn out to be the indelible sort that cannot be used on white boards -- even though you generally have so many perfectly useable markers that you are spoiled for choice.

Take my word for it: things know what they're doing and they find our panic, our profound irritation, and our utter humiliation very entertaining.

So be forewarned--and take care. You can bet I'll be watching my eggs very carefully.

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24 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I know exactly of what you speak. It is a widespread and massive conspiracy. And no one seems to want to talk about it. You are brave to mention it in public when the "objects" are watching. ;)

Ruth Kelly said...

Well put. I, too, love the gooey yellow of the egg which I still eat. I try to get fresh eggs that come from a local farmer and not ones that are shipped across the country.

Mirka Breen said...

You win my post prize today: fantastic if wretched read.
Now I know what to chuck the disappearing socks from the drier thingy to: TT. (=Treachery of Things)

Vijaya said...

Yes, why is it so? And Charles puts a great spin on it ... I wonder what my winnie-the-pooh bowl is thinking right now. It is set on an important letter, but I have since polished off the salad with goat cheese, so I doubt anything can happen.

As for eggs, I loathe them. I fix them for my family and grateful I can fix something so good and nutritious quickly. However, I think they are best when you cannot taste the egg itself, like in a carrot or zucchini cake.

Linnhe Mara said...

The treachery of things indeed. Its all a plot to remind us we are not the ones in control.
I find it best to search in the opposite direction to the one you think the item should have taken. As you say, physics doesn't come in to it. :o)

Bish Denham said...

I too like a good runny yolk. (You know the problem may be in the age of the eggs...but I like your theory of the Treachery of Things better. Things do have a way of getting back at us for being complacent and taking them for granted.

inluvwithwords said...

So true. I dropped a thumb tack today and searched desperately for it. I know it's just waiting for someone to stroll barefoot through the house.

annebingham said...

A related phenomenon is the Affinity of Salad Dressing for Silk.

Eryl said...

Do you thing that when we sleep all our things gather to discuss how best to get us the next day?

Kim Ayres said...

The best way to find anything is to be looking for something else...

According to Heston Blumenthal, the perfect soft-boiled egg is attained by placing the eggs in cold water, bringing the water up to the boil, then immediately turning off the heat but putting a lid over the pan, then leaving it for exactly 6 minutes.

I haven't tried this, but it was in the Radio Times last week :)

Carole said...

One hundred percent accurate. And there is no way to defeat the T of T. It is always lurking, waiting for the very best moment to attack.

Lisa Shafer said...

I constantly have 15 or more dry-erase markers out in my "chalk" trays. None of them will ever work past the first day I try to use them.
(I miss chalk boards.)

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- (We should cement this exchange with a secret handshake.) So good to know that others are onto this too and recognize the risks I've taken in pointing it out. My family just doesn't get it, no matter how many times they step on thumbtacks they've abandoned the hunt for, or how many stray bits of food make a break for it at mealtimes.

Ruth -- In Japan, people still eat eggs without cooking them. I can just about manage this as long as the rice is hot enough. You and I are riding the ragged edge of disaster, but sometimes you just have to, don't you?

Mirka -- We've got that sock thing going on here something fierce. I finally gave up on all the mismatched ones and made a doorstop out of them. My husband has taken over this job, and he's now puzzling over this conundrum as well. Maybe they're all off on single sock get-togethers?

Vijaya -- I have a friend who can't stand the sight of eggs (she actually retches if she sees them). It's great to be around her when she is given a serving of eggs that I can always clear away for her. But I love them in zucchini bread and carrot cake too!

Linnhe -- But haven't you found that when you search in the direction you don't expect the item to go in that it will, perversely, have managed to fall in the expected direction for the first time ever? My husband claims I'm just unlucky with things, but I've heard him griping with the gearbox.

Bish -- I know you're supposed to keep eggs for a week or two before you boil them, but these eggs were easily that old, and all identical -- or at least they appeared to be that way. Who knows what mad deceptions they've been practicing on me? ;)

InLuv -- That is absolutely what your thumb tack is waiting for. It saw your groping hand and said to itself, "No, what I want is a bare, unsuspecting foot to bite into." And it's prepared to wait until it finds one. Be careful!

Anne -- YES! And it's a well established fact that salad dressing prefers lighter material -- especially if it's a tomato-based dressing.

Eryl -- There are times I really do suspect this. I'm particularly nervous about sharp or sticky things, or stuff that can stain.

Kim -- They must be using bigger eggs than we are -- or they like them a lot less runny! I've found that bringing them to a rolling boil, then leaving them 1-2 minutes in the water with or without a lid on the pot does the trick. But these recent eggs were sly, tricksy things.

Carole -- I'm so glad there are others who take this as seriously as I do!

Lisa -- So I'm not the only one this happens to! In Cyprus, I thought the markers had dried up because of the dryness of the climate, but this happens in Scotland too, and now Utah. I'm beginning to see that it's a lot more insidious.

Adrienne said...

Yes, why is it true? The slightest hint of desperation has to be the most repellent force in nature. Someone really ought to figure out a way to mask that!

MoreThingsJapanese said...

Maybe a variation in the salt content, and thus temp of your boiling water? An evil plot by a crack chicken commando team targeting the most egg-loving people? The universe at large messing with you for a laugh? Who knows...

Two things on eggs...
Someday I want a scotch egg like I saw on Iron Chef (or was it Top Chef?), where the egg yolk was still runny even after frying it.

In addition to raw egg in rice in Japan, I was introduced to a hot pot meal, where you get a bowl with raw egg and then take the hot veggies and meat from the pot, dip in egg, and eat. Forgot what its called...

Mary Witzl said...

Adrienne -- I can mask just about everything but desperation -- no wonder I'm easy prey! Things have keen sensors: a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich can tell that you really don't want the tasty side on a light-colored carpet.

MTJ -- I swear I didn't vary the salt content, unless one of my kids is toying with me. (You never know: one is into chemistry and weird experiments.)

All the Scotch eggs I've had have been dripping with grease, the insides boiled to the consistency of tires. Finding one with a runny center would really be hitting the jackpot. And how I miss the raw egg component to a なべ dish! Here in the U.K., they won't serve you that at a Japanese restaurant -- health and safety rules. (Not that I can afford to eat at any here. but still...)

Chocolatesa said...

This has nothing to do with your post, it's a video that made me think of your post about cats and water. It's hilarious! http://youtu.be/ctJJrBw7e-c

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mary Witzl said...

Chocolatesa -- Thank you, I will check that out. I can never get over all the variations there are in cat behavior, especially when it comes to water.

Stella said...

My husband has an old book called "The Official Rules" which is all Murphy's law statements - or some version of them. The kids always loved reading it. I think it has about fallen apart. I loved the one that said, "Murphy tends to be optimistic."

Mary Witzl said...

Stella -- "Murphy tends to be optimistic" -- that really is a good one. But every time I watch the news lately, I think that must be true.

wordwranglernc said...

I want you to know, Miss Mary, that I hop over here at least once a week or so to read your fab blog. All your posts make me either: smile, laugh or tear up a little. I might not comment on them all, but I just wanted to say... don't stop. Keep blogging. The blogging world is a little bit brighter because of you! (For the record, though, I don't know how you eat softboiled eggs. They HAVE to be hardboiled for me!)

Lily Cate said...

I find the converse to be true, also, as when I want to get rid of something, and it refuses to go away. Like, I'll bag up a bundle of clothes to give away, and somehow keep forgetting where I put them when it's time to go. Or that I still have them until I find them lurking in the back of a closet.
Sneaky, sneaky sweaters.

Mary Witzl said...

WordWrangler -- Thank you so much for those encouraging words. I love writing this blog and, more than anything else, 'meeting' the other bloggers/writers, especially those who are trying to publish. If I didn't have a proper job, I'd be blog a lot more regularly -- especially after your kind words.

Lily -- I've got the exact same problem. Right now, there is a superfluous tea set in the kitchen, and it's been boxed up and waiting to start a new life for longer than I dare say. Likewise for the bag of kids' clothes and old Christmas ornaments. Things know when we don't want them, and they toy with us by making sure they stay in our faces. ;o)