Starting Small

3.22.11 § 18 Comments

So, I’ve been all about personal growth lately and I’d like to share something I’ve learned: start small. In a moments of panic when I feel like the world is closing in, which is happening all too often since I left SAVEUR, I have to take a deep breath and a step back and take on a task I know I can handle. Or at least that I hope I might be able to handle. Case in point: frying an egg. It’s something I never really learned how to do. (Funny how I am this “food blogger” who has such glaring gaps in knowledge. A day or two ago I actually had to call my mother to ask her if I should wrap a potato in foil or not before baking it in the oven. *Rolls eyes at self.* The answer is yes, wrap it in foil. Thanks, mom.)

Anyway, back to the point. Whenever I face a huge life change (moving to New York, looking for a job, leaving a job, etc), I tend to enter into a period of immense self-doubt characterized by near paralysis. In other words, up until yesterday when I was actually kind of productive (which only happened after the egg frying), the only thing I’ve accomplished since leaving SAVEUR two full weeks ago is finishing the entire Battlestar Galactica series. Yes, you read that right. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.

So, after wrestling with this self-destructive behavior off and on for about three years now, I’ve finally figured out a little trick. When I start feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand (getting my life together), I try to pick something small and concrete to do. Because accomplishing something, anything, makes me feel better about myself, which makes it easier to be productive.

Unfortunately, while I did try to fry an egg, I still haven’t mastered it. That’s okay, because now I have something to work on. And my a-bit-too-fried egg was still delicious over some couscous with sauteed asparagus and cheese. If you also need some help frying an egg, look below for the instructions slightly adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. And if you want to read more about my self-destructive behavior, which I’m currently working on fixing, hop on over to Feministe, where I’ve written about it here and here in more detail.

Goal: Another blog post on Thursday. See? Now that I’ve put it out there, I kind of have to do it. Right?

Fried Eggs
adapted from The Art of Simple Food

Alice Waters says, “The key to frying eggs is finding the right pan–mine is a well-seasoned, 10-inch cast-iron pan–and taking care of it. Wipe it clean after you use it, or wash it with water if there’s any food stuck on it, but keep it out of soapy water and the dishwasher, and keep it dry.” I never really knew you should use a cast-iron, but I did this time, and it worked nicely.

Warm your cast-iron pan over medium heat. After a minute or so turn the heat to low and add a piece of butter or a splash of olive oil. (When I did this, I added a bit too much butter I think…) Swirl the pan around to cover the bottom with the melting butter or oil, then gently crack open the egg into the pan. Lightly salt and pepper the egg, cooking it until the white is almost completely set. Gently coax a spatula under the egg. (You’ll want a fairly large spatula to fit as much of the egg as possible.) With a smooth motion, turn the egg over in the pan without breaking the yolk; this is difficult with a slow-cooked egg because the yolk is still quite tender. Season the egg again with salt and pepper. For a very runny yolk, cook for just a few seconds more. For a firmer yolk, cook for another minute or so. For those who do not like their yolks the least bit runny, break the yolk just before flipping the egg over, turn off the heat, and allow the egg to be cooked until done by the residual heat of the pan.


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§ 18 Responses to Starting Small

  • Jo says:

    Nicely done 🙂
    I’m still trying to teach myself how to poach eggs. After three eggs and much muttered profanity, I decided to try again another day.
    I think it’s about time I give it another shot.
    Enjoy your eggs!

  • sofia says:

    I HEAR YOU! Facing the prospect of job hunting and actualu kick-starting my chosen career is terrifying, and I too have less than stellar coping mechanisms despite my field of study. (ironic? Maybe). In moments when I want to crawl up into a ball and hide from the world, I force myself out. I know that for me I need human interaction, even if it means a non-verbal shared experience like a cheap or free yoga class. These things help, as does egg-frying, which I have never even attempted. How about poaching? Let’s have an egg-poaching/ life kvetching date. That might be therapeutic, yes?

  • Ria Canilao Pullin says:

    Hi Megan (yes, you’ll always be Megan to me :P) I enjoy reading your posts and it sometimes makes me think back to 7th grade when we were very close and would spend hours laughing about absolutely nothing… and when you spilled red fruit punch all over my carpet and you were trying desperately to clean it up and said you felt like Cinderella. You should come to California and we can hang out and cook together… and not spill red fruit punch on my carpet lol

    I learned a trick for frying eggs that has completely changed my life (haha, okay, that’s an exaggeration but it’s freakin’ amazing!)… So, what you do is get a frying pan and find a lid that will fit tightly. I somehow got lucky and a lid from one of my stock pots fit perfectly on my 10″ non stick frying pan. Anywho… spray some cooking spray onto your NON STICK frying/saute pan and heat your pan over medium heat for a few minutes, crack two eggs into the pan and cover it immediately. Wait two minutes (for a runny yolk) and slide it out onto your plate. You’re looking for a slightly opaque film over the yolk. No flipping required. I was skeptical when I read it on Cooks Illustrated but now I can get breakfast ready in under 5 minutes (toast, 2 over easy eggs, and two strips of bacon in the microwave (two layers of paper towel on top and on the bottom, 4 minutes, 70% power)) It’s pretty awesome, you should try it =) And again, come to Cali and I can find the home videos from my 13th birthday/going away and when you slept over after the party and we shrieked about boys. lol. Take care, my dear.

    • Ria Canilao Pullin says:

      There’s a picture of what you’re looking for with the fried egg that’s been cooked in a covered frying pan. The steam will cook the top part of the egg.

      • Tyla says:

        Thanks for the tips, Ria! I’ll have to try it out. Also, I’ll definitely let you know if I’m ever out that way – we’ll have to have an N*Sync dance party for old time’s sake though…

  • Brianne says:

    The dish you made looks beautiful! Ironically, the only way I’ve ever been able to semi-successfully cook eggs is poaching. I can’t fry them or even scramble them! How embarrassing.

    I’ve wanted to study forestry since I was in 8th grade, and now that I’m finally doing it, I hate it. And I have no idea what to do instead. So I started cooking…and found blogs like yours! I’m still going to get my degree, but when that’s over…oh, God. I will be a panicky mess. I get the willies just thinking about what’s next! Baby steps, right? Start small 🙂

  • Katie says:

    I can completely relate to your tendency to procrastinate–it’s something I struggle with myself, in every area of life. And I also can relate to what you’re going through career-wise: my 20s were *hard*…no one talks much about how difficult that transition from college bubble to real world can be. But, you sound like you’re tenacious and smart…you will get through it and you will get your career on track before you know it.

    Have you tried meditation? May sound touchy feely, but it can help. Also, daily reading affirmations gain help. Here’s one I posted to my blog about this very issue–feeling paralized by the big picture. Hope this helps:
    From Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony by Ming-dao Deng:
    …No matter what your circumstances, you always have volition. Take advantage of that.
    Why be so proud that you refuse to take little steps when little steps are all that you can do? If you cannot make grand strides, at least try to move an inch. An inch in one direction and then an inch in another already make up the span of two inches. Gradually, we can improve upon that. We need patience, and we need to know where we are going, but if we remember the significance of an inch, then we always have room to move.

    Look at a redwood. It does not grow to its height all at once. It goes little by little. So slowly and so gradually do its roots move that it can find a toehold even in seemingly solid rock. In time, with its inch-by-inch movements, that redwood can split granite and still find sustenance for itself. At the same time, the redwood moves inch by inch upward and expands inch by inch in girth. Given enough time, the tree can outlive many creatures on earth by generations and attain a stature difficult to uproot.

    The redwood does not disdain the tactics of the inch. How can we?

  • I love this post. After being vegan for 5 years, the thought of frying my first egg was terrifying. I had partial and distant memories of eating fried egg sandwiches as a little girl, but I couldn’t really remember exactly how they were supposed to look or taste. Learning to tackle what seems like the most basic of kitchen tasks was a tough but rewarding exercise in intuition, slip-ups, and trust. Now that I’m not vegan anymore, I eat fried eggs almost every morning, and I still don’t get it right every time.

  • renie says:

    Oh, Tyla, you make me laugh! You are the one of the most grounded people I know! Your writing is wonderful, your cooking is amazing, and your smile warms my heart. So what if you can’t fry an egg??? I love you! Renie

  • Jasmine says:

    You “don’t know” how to fry an egg and you’re “not good” at food photography and yet your finished product is an absolutely gorgeous balance of flavour and colour. Typical Tyla.
    I feel sick when I think of how badly I procrastinate. The end of term is getting closer, and closer and -I can’t think about it. I have all these papers to do and exams to study for but I just can’t get myself out of bed and to the library. This morning I slept through my 8:30 class AND skipped out on a run with a friend. I spent the day eating chips in my pyjamas. I’m staying up late surfing the web when I know I have to be up at 7:00 tomorrow. Every morning I swear to myself that I’m going to get into better sleep habits but every night I underestimate the number of hours of rest I need.
    Your post on Feministe was like looking into the mirror. “Why are you doing this to yourself? Over and over? You have opportunities in front of you that many would die to have, and you’re going to fuck it up because you want to sleep fifteen more minutes?” This is me.
    I know I have so much potential, but instead of doing my best I scrape by. I have all these big plans for my life but I’m not doing anything to work towards any of them. When I think about all the things I should be doing or improvements I want to make in my life I get overwhelmed. My to-do list is miles long and as soon as I think about it I shut down.
    I think you’ve got it. Baby steps is the way to go. So tomorrow I am going to:
    -book a dentist appointment
    -call my landlord
    -work on catching up on my required reading
    Not that you needed to know any of that, but putting it out in cyberspace might just motivate me to do it. What does it tell you that shower had to go on the list?
    Thank you for your blog Tyla. You’re funny, you’re honest, you are constantly providing me with new recipes to try, and today, when I so desperately needed a reality check you gave it to me.
    Here’s to you and here’s to me and here’s to everyone else out there like us. We can do this. We can take the baby steps toward being the truly awesome people we were meant to be.

    • Tyla says:

      Jasmine, you’re right. Here’s to us! And just so you know, “shower” is also on my to-do list for today…or tomorrow. I was talking with my roommate last night and she told me that she thinks I need a therapist to help me get my act together, so I’ll let you know if it helps any! Good luck with the rest of your term – you’ll pull it all off (we always do…)

      • Jasmine says:

        You live in New York and you don’t have a therapist? Just kidding. As a psych student, I’d say that sounds like a great idea. And thanks. Cyberspace may be full of creeps and scams and other scary things, but it’s also got food bloggers who know just how to make my day.
        Good luck with that shower!

  • Tori Nelson says:

    I love this because I have felt that overwhelmed sense of doubt too many times to count. My mom’s advice which of course was totally spot on: Do the next right thing. Starting small and taking the next right step makes life seem so much easier to tackle!

  • Jen says:

    Do you ever read someone’s blog and think, “if we weren’t a few hundred miles away we would probably really enjoy having a glass of wine together?” (not like a date, but like a wind down after a long day and talk about food and cooking and writing and life?) Sometimes I think that about YOU, particularly after your amazing quote of the office (that’s my favorite scene of Jim playing tricks on Dwight!)

    Also, I recently did a post about a fried egg too, except mine was about how to steam fry an egg, the way my mom taught me when I was younger. It’s easier than a regular fried egg because you don’t have to flip it–and flipping the egg is really the difficult part of the whole thing. I put the URL in my “website” tag here when I posted this comment if you want to check it out.

    • Tyla says:

      Jen, your comment totally made me smile. YES I definitely know that feeling, so if you ever end up hanging out in NYC please do let me know and we’ll have that glass of wine.

      I checked out your post and have definitely used that method a time or two, it works so well! Maybe I’ll just do that from now on…

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