I wrap my fingers into the edge of the metal handle attached to the wooden door on my Sub-Zero fridge. It requires intentional strength to pull the door open, the air suctioning the cold inside. Finally it gives way and the door swings out, revealing layer on layer of leftovers stacked in Rubbermaid containers, two gallons of 1% milk, a carafe of orange juice and six pounds of butter. We have our priorities around here. I grab three brown eggs from their scooped cradles inside the door, and one of the jugs of milk. With eggs in one hand, and milk in the other, I kick the fridge door shut. I can hear the air sucking inside, like the thing has lungs. I set the milk on the counter and open the maple cupboard door to the right of the sink, lifting a vegetable bowl and pushing some dirty dishes off to the side making room on the counter near the sink. I set the bowl on the cold granite and tap one of the eggs against the stone. I lift the cracked egg with the flow of a conductor raising her baton for the upbeat, stretch my thumb and ring finger away from each other while still gripping the shell. The egg gives way and divides itself. I raise my hand again and let the liquid, all jelly like with a golden orb in the middle, fall into the vegetable bowl. As I repeat the process on the second egg I reach behind me, pulling on the wooden handle of the utensil drawer, and retrieve, without looking, a fork. I whip the eggs in a rolling motion, the yellow-gold swirling into the gelatin white. Soon it is all a frothy pale yellow. I place the bowl next to the sink, lift the gallon of milk over it, and pour a few tablespoons into the whipped eggs. As I continue to whip, my hand reaches into the narrow spice cupboard to the left of the stovetop. A waft of miscellaneous fragrance floats out as my hand reaches in, past the bottles of sage and cinnamon. It comes out victorious, with a bottle of Mexican vanilla. Still whipping, I tip the bottle and allow two drops to fall into the eggs.
At the stove I bend over, way to the bottom roll-out shelf, and pull out the square griddle. As my left hand places the griddle on the burner, the right hand twists the ignition knob. A yellow blue flame leaps out around the edges of the griddle, then settles into a slow steady hiss as the griddle heats up. I dip a knife into the ceramic container of butter, the one we bought in England years ago. The rectangular terra cotta butter box says Original Suffolk Butter Box – for Home or Safari. I slide the chunk of butter from my knife and lift the pan, watching the creamy oil disappear as it slides, singing, over the hot griddle.
Grandma Sycamore bread: soft, white substantial, fiberless and delicious. I pull it from the bread drawer, untwist the tie, and pull out four pieces. Fork in one hand, I dip the bread, a piece at a time, into the egg mixture, shake it two times and then place it on the griddle, one lined up next to the other. I have an instinct about things on the stove. When my cooking angel tells me, I slide the edge of a spatula under one of the pieces and flip it onto the opposite side of the griddle where the butter has turned brown, smells yummy delicious, right there on the edge of burnt. I listen to the egg sizzle for just a moment, then silently heat the mixture infused in the bread until it is slightly firm, the outer skin of the bread looking all golden brown and mottled. I slide the slices onto a plate from the cupboard, spread a generous chunk of butter atop and move it across the landscape of the toast until it looks like a golden swampy earth spot in early spring when the snows have melted. Atop the pond I sprinkle soft, virgin powdered sugar, straight from the bag, the sweetness falling like snow from heavy evergreen branches.
It is early morning, on a test day, and my boy or my girls scurry down the stairs. I bless the food myself, asking the Lord to help them recall what they’ve learned. I pour a cup of juice and set it before them. They inhale the toast and drink the juice down in three swallows; grab their books, call out a “Thanks, Mom”, and (depending on the child) slip over to the stove to give me a hug or a kiss. Then they are off to school.
In the fresh cold silence of my kitchen I find there is just enough egg mixture left in the bottom of the vegetable bowl for maybe one slice for myself. I dip the soft white bread in and slide it around like a dinner roll in the last trails of gravy on a Thanksgiving plate. It’s not quite enough to cover all the bread, but I make it anyway. Sit at the counter by my lonesome and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Soft, white, sweet and buttery powdered sugar on top of French Toast.