By Robert St. John
Everyone needs at least one friend who is frank and to the point. Someone who speaks their mind no matter what the consequence. A person who will call you out when you’ve done wrong. The guy or gal that will tell you exactly what is on his or her mind. I am blessed with several of those type friends. None are more “to type” than my friend, David Trigiani.
I was in Jackson over the weekend, checking on our businesses up there and decided to check in on him before heading home. A longtime resident of Jackson, Trigiani is 82 but is in much better shape than most 60-year-olds I know (including me). His mind is as sharp as his tongue, and his tongue is razor sharp. When it comes to frank and to the point, he put the “ire” in direct.
I have several friends who are unreserved and unequivocal in their frankness, none more so than my buddy, David. He tops the list.
I like to stay in touch with all my friends. David and I hadn’t seen each other for a while so I popped over to his house for a quick morning visit on Saturday before heading home. He had saved a newspaper article I was featured in, so we walked into his kitchen where he keeps the old papers fastidiously stacked in a neat pile beside the kitchen island.
Three eggs lay in a bowl next to a skillet on the front burner of the stove. “Make me breakfast,” he said, in true Trigiani fashion. I don’t have many friends who would boldly blurt out a demand with such ease. But of the friends I do have that would do it, Trigiani tops the list. To be honest, it wasn’t a stern command, but a more of a lighthearted and joking request, stated frankly. He obviously was about to cook breakfast, I interrupted his morning routine, it would be the least I could do.
I grabbed a fork out of the drawer, cracked the eggs in a bowl, added just a drop of water from the tap, and looked for milk or cream in his refrigerator. I like to add a drop of milk or cream to my scrambled eggs. There was none. “I’ve got some truffle butter in the fridge, use that,” he said. Of all my friends who would have truffle butter in the fridge, Trigiani would top that list, too.
I gently stirred the eggs with the fork. “Aren’t you going to whip them up?” he asked.
“No, I don’t want to incorporate air into the eggs. This is the way Julia Child taught me how to scramble eggs.” I waited for his query of how I came to have a discussion with Julia Child about scrambling eggs, but he was unimpressed. I will admit that the statement was partially ego-driven, because it would be too crass and obvious to say, “I actually had a couple of breakfasts with Julia Child, and we spoke about how to scramble the perfect egg.” But it was also a shot across the bow to let him know, “Hey, I got this. I can scramble an egg.”
Trigiani wasn’t concerned with anyone’s brushes with celebrity, he was more interested in why I wasn’t going to whip up the eggs. As the truffle butter melted in the skillet, I explained that I wanted his eggs to come out smooth and ribbony, not fluffy and airy. “It’s not an omelet at Waffle House where they put the eggs in a milkshake machine before putting them in the skillet.” He chuckled at that comment. I poured the eggs into the skillet and let them sit for a bit before drawing them into the center with a rubber spatula and tilting the skillet so the uncooked portion could reach the empty side of the skillet.
“You’ve got the heat too high,” he said.
“I got this. Trust me.” Within a minute or so, the eggs were almost done. They still had a sheen on them. It’s the sheen that Julia Child spoke of that morning years ago. I didn’t mention that Julia was the one who gave me that advice, because it wouldn’t have mattered to Trigiani anyway. I removed the skillet from the burner, gave the eggs a flip and slid them onto a plate. Perfect. Smooth and ribbony.
Trigiani seemed pleased with the end result. “I didn’t know about not whipping the eggs and not incorporating air into them,” he said. I resisted pulling out the Julia card again, because he was obviously unimpressed. But I was surprised that he didn’t’ know this method of scrambling eggs. Trigiani is an excellent cook and spends a good bit of time in the kitchen cooking gourmet meals for friends, and for himself. Though he is Italian, and many Italians are in a constant who-has-the-better-food battle with the French (Trigiani comes down firmly on the side of the Italians), so maybe that explains his passe attitude towards the French method.
As we sat and visited at his breakfast room table, we spoke, as we typically do, about travel, friends, and food. Still no query from him as to how I came to have breakfast with Julia Child. She was a Francophile, so maybe that explains it. He enjoyed the eggs, so all was well.
On the drive home I wondered what it was that brought out the request, or demand, or whatever it was, “Make me breakfast.” I know he follows my social media and last week’s Facebook and Instagram accounts were filled with posts from the photo shoot of my new breakfast cookbook. Was he testing whether I knew anything about cooking breakfast? Or had I just put him in the mood for eggs?
I have friends of all ages and from all walks of life. Trigiani would be my closest friend who is also an octogenarian. He’s one of my closest friends, period. But again, he acts and looks younger thank most 50 or 60-year-olds I know. His frankness and straightforwardness are usually pretty funny in a sweet, older, get-off-of-my-lawn kind of way. Once a waitress in a diner asked us if we wanted to hear the daily specials. Trigiani pointed to her heavily stained apron and said, “Why don’t you just scrape some of that crap off of your apron, put it on a plate, and serve it to us.” She laughed and gave it right back to him. Everyone needs a friend who can get away with such statements.
I write often about the Five Fs and the things that truly matter in life— faith, family, friends, food, and fun. Friends and food are a natural pairing in my life. When those two come together, fun— and sometimes breakfast— usually follows.
Perfect Scrambled Eggs
3 Eggs, large
2 tsp Half & Half
1 Tbl Butter
Salt and pepper to taste.
Crack eggs in a small bowl and stir well with a fork until the yolks and whites have just incorporated. Do not stir too vigorously or you will add air to the eggs. Add cream to eggs and stir well.
In a non-stick skillet over moderately low heat, melt the butter and tilt the pan to coat the entire surface. Add the egg mixture to the skillet. Using a rubber spatula slowly scrape the bottom of the skillet until the eggs begin to coagulate. Continue to carefully stir the eggs until they are “just done”. The eggs should be almost fully cooked and custard-like (Julia Child calls them “custardy lumps”) yet have a slightly wet and shiny sheen to them.
Remove eggs from the skillet immediately and transfer to a plate (the eggs will continue to cook slightly for the next 30-45 seconds so it imperative to remove them just before they are done). Add salt and pepper to taste.
(Robert St. John is a chef, restaurateur and cookbook author. He lives in Hattiesburg, Miss. with his wife, Jill, four cats and a dog named Donut.)
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