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Old 03-20-2020, 08:39 PM
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Secret Eggs, Over Easy


There was a knock on the door of my dorm room, that day back in ‘82, and my roommate answered it. Standing outside in the hall were three young men with bloodshot eyes and a demeanor of gentle pain. One wore a bathrobe, one wore a T-shirt and athletic shorts, and the third guy wore only his Fruit of the Loom white briefs.

Without a word, they filed in and sat on Boris’ bed. “Coffee,” said Izod, who wore a bathrobe. His eyes were not open. They hadn’t been since he walked into the room.

“Two egg scrambled, bacon, coffee,” said Zorro, who wore the shirt and shorts.

“Two egg scrambled, toast, orange juice.” said Wild Man.

I dumped four eggs into the popcorn popper, and slapped the dome on it, pushed the plunger on the toaster, and poured two mugs of coffee and a glass of OJ, before reopening the dome to whip the eggs. Prepster and Zorro took their cups wordlessly, and staggered over to the coffee station, over on my roommate’s desk, to add cream and sugar. Wild Man sat there for a minute, holding his glass of OJ while reality percolated into his brain. He drank it, blinked twice, and sat and waited for his eggs and toast. Meanwhile, across the room, sitting on MY bed, Mr. Zulu and the Creature discussed freshman English assignments and ate eggs on toast, while the Dewy Eyed Wonder, who always brought his own egg cup, knocked the top off his four minute egg and began cutting his toast into strips, the better to dip into said egg.

And this was a fairly typical Sunday morning in my dorm room in the fall of ‘82.

********************************************************************
It had begun back during the summer session.

I’d started school STRAIGHT out of high school, because I didn’t want to spend another second in the little tiny cow town I’d grown up in; I was so eager to get to the Big City, I could taste it, and had signed up straightaway for the summer session.

And in doing, I had learned that when one is taking six or eight hours of school, one has a fair amount of free time on one’s hands. And so I did what pretty much everyone at Southwest Texas State University did in the early eighties; I drank like a fish and partied like I was daring a timid fate to kill me in my sleep. It helped that I did not have hangovers, per se, regardless of how much I drank, a talent that helped me considerably, and earned me some envy from my classmates.

And on Sunday morning, I would awaken from the night’s entertainments, yawn, turn on the TV to catch the news, and endure the evil glare of whoever had passed out in the room the night before. I did turn the sound down; no need to be inconsiderate.

But there’s a thing about me: I’m a breakfast guy.

I don’t NEED to eat breakfast, but I always feel better after having consumed something after getting up in the morning. Something reasonably substantial; a cup of coffee and a slice of toast doesn’t cut it. I learned how to make eggs when I was a kid, and had mastered all the ways of preparing them, and often kept a few eggs around; they do reasonably well without refrigeration for a few days.

Trouble is? You weren’t supposed to cook in the dorm. Against the rules.

THESE days, in dorm rooms, I hear you’re allowed a microwave. Some rooms even come with one built in. But in 1982, while microwave ovens existed, they were expensive as all hell, big as a barn, and not well trusted. NO MICROWAVE IN THE DORMS!

You were allowed a coffee percolator, which I had, and I also had a popcorn popper, which was also allowed; it was one of the old kind, the one that was basically a concave hot plate with a plastic snap on dome; you poured a tablespoon of oil in, added a quarter cup of popcorn, snapped the lid on, and waited for the popcorn to happen.

Y’know what? The popcorn popper worked just fine as an egg scrambler if you used a pat of margarine and two whipped eggs, rather than oil and popcorn. The popcorn popper did not care. And it was easier than putting pants on and walking all the way up to the dining hall. So, often, weekend breakfasts, particularly on Sundays, just happened right there in the dorm room. Eggs and coffee, that’s how it’s done!

This earned me a bit of goodwill from my roommate. Apparently, a hangover and the morning news is a little more manageable if one has a plate of eggs and a cup of coffee. And he didn’t want to put pants on any more than I did. And we often had breakfast right there in the room.

...at least, until word got out.

No one told the RA on the hall, of course. No one wanted to be a snitch. But occasionally, someone would drop in and ask if there was a spare egg or a cup of coffee to be had by one who simply could not stand the agony of the screaming sunlight to be endured between the dorm room and the dining hall. Please? Please?

By the second summer session, I’d obtained a rapid boiler, a little one quart cooker that could boil water in thirty seconds. I had also begun to experiment with bacon, and learned that you could hang a half dozen strips over a wire hanger, and ignite them with a Zippo, and they’d cook themselves crispy, although you had to put a pan under them to catch the flaming drippings. And someone gave me a toaster.

By the time the fall session had begun, everyone on the floor knew that Sunday mornings, breakfast could be had at the Master’s room, starting sometime after eight. Eggs were two for a buck, bacon was two strips for a buck, toast was a quarter a slice with butter, ham was a buck a slice, cheese was a quarter a slice, OJ and milk were fifty cents a glass, and coffee was a buck a cup, but free refills. I’d tried selling it cheaper, but we kept running out, and had only the one percolator...

By then, my roommate had rented one of those little refrigerators, which made an expanded menu more feasible. We invariably had at least two dozen eggs in there, a small ham, a couple pounds of bacon, a pack of American slices, quart of OJ, gallon of milk... we tried Eggo waffles for a while, but they didn’t bring in enough money to be worth it, and cereal did well but took up too much space, and ew, the cleanup...

We had regulars. Every Sunday, you could count on Izod, the Creature, Rocket Boy, the Dewy Eyed Wonder, Zorro, and Mr. Zulu, regular as clockwork. There were others who would or would not appear, depending on where they’d wound up the night before. The Dewy Eyed Wonder, in particular I remember, because out of all the regulars, he was the biggest pain in the butt; he ALWAYS ordered the same thing, coffee with cream and sugar, three slices of dry toast and two four minute eggs, and he’d bring his own egg cup and metal spoon, and knock the top carefully off the egg, and cut his toast into strips to dip in the yolk and savor between sips of coffee.

Everyone else? They’d have fried, over easy, hard fried, scrambled... but Dewy had to have his four minute eggs and toast.

I’d occasionally get complaints about the prices, which might have been a little stiff by the standards of the time. My reply was invariably, “There are four places within four hundred yards of here that will sell you a breakfast made to order. All of them have a better menu, three are cheaper, and one of them, you already paid for. Go try them and see how many will serve you in your tighty whities and nothing else, and let you run a tab.”

This invariably ended it. No one wanted to walk more than ten yards for breakfast while in the grip of a hangover.

Sometimes, unauthorized personnel would show up and bang on the door. We had the cover story down to a science: I’d promptly grab the bacon hanger, blow it out, and hang it outside the window frame. Boris would grab the popcorn popper, unplug it, and slide it under the bed. Rocket Boy would slip a book in front of the cream and sugar dispensers, and the Creature would grab the bread, toaster, and condiment tray and slip it under the other bed. You’d be surprised how quickly and cleverly a hungover college boy can manage, when you threaten his secret breakfasts.

Admittedly, we did face some scrutiny; when one opens a door and sees ten college guys in their underwear, all sitting around sipping coffee in a dorm room barely big enough for two, it raises questions. Particularly if the smell of bacon lingers. It startled the hell out of this one girl I was dating at the time. The men in underwear, not the smell of bacon, that is.

The problem finally solved itself in September, when the RA, Prepster, managed to sprain his ankle doing something or other, and showed up at the door, on crutches, painfully hung over and begging for coffee and eggs. Please, please, I doe WANNA stagger all the way to the dining hall, just gimme coffee and eggs and I promise, I PROMISE, no word will escape my lips about what you’re doing in there...

He coughed up a fiver and his word of honor, and got a plate of bacon and eggs, and a cup of coffee, but the regulars insisted that he eat in the HALL, dammit. He was eventually admitted, after Mr. Zulu orated a stirring defense in which he reminded us of the lunch counters of the South and evoked the spirit of Rosa Parks.

After that, Prepster the RA became a regular. He was also pretty helpful about deflecting suspicion, and he saved us, one night, when we were considering adding a Hibachi for breakfast steaks; he informed us that if the little barbecue set off the smoke detectors, there’d be a full investigation that even HE wouldn’t be able to stop, deflect, or do anything about...

... and so Wild Man was disappointed; there would be no breakfast grill. Although he and the Prepster came up with a fun idea, and thereafter, we kept diced onion and bell pepper handy for ham and egg scramble, a dollar a cup. It wound up being one of our most popular items, and I liked it because I could make it the night before, and heat it up to serve; I could sit and enjoy my coffee instead of having to constantly be prepping individual breakfasts.

By the spring of ‘83, we were almost too successful. I’d added a bun warmer to keep the breakfast scramble hot while leaving the popcorn popper open for orders. We were getting ten, twelve, fifteen customers at a time, and Rocket Boy was running a successful marijuana resale operation among the regulars.

The Dewy Eyed Wonder took a count at the breakfast boutique down the street, and noted that their Sunday crowd was routinely smaller than mine. I should point out, however, that their customers were all fully dressed. And Boris and I did have to clamp down on a couple of the regulars who slept nude: bare asses would NOT be permitted to sit on our beds. Or anywhere else in the room. You will be served, but you’ll eat in the hall or take it to go. C’mon, guys, nobody wants to look at your junk while they’re eating breakfast...

Quite a few people pressured me to offer a lunch menu, although I had classes during that part of the day...

*******************************************************************

I guess I don’t know where I’m going with this. It’s sort of a confession to a series of crimes, now that I think about it -- we weren’t supposed to be cooking entire meals in the dorm, much less running a restaurant.

We certainly shouldn’t have offered a Sunday morning breakfast special consisting of a cup of Breakfast Scramble, a bottomless cup of coffee, and a joint.

My old man kept bugging me to get a job while I was taking classes. I never actually told him that I sorta already had one; between “helping” other students write research papers and running Chez Wang-Ka, I was actually doing considerably better than minimum wage.

Maybe I’m wrong. But perhaps while some sins should be repented? I think some should be cherished and savored...
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Old 03-20-2020, 08:52 PM
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Bravo
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Old 03-20-2020, 09:03 PM
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Make do with what you have.

When I lived in dorm in the mid 80s, Iowa State University, same policies of no microwaves in the room. Dorm fridge and maybe another appliance like a coffee pot was allowed.

Not a coffee drinker so no coffee pot, but had a fridge and a Tombstone pizza oven that was "borrowed" from a neighborhood bar in my hometown. Soon discovered the many things besides pizza that could be made in the oven. Chili dogs was one of the favorites. Nuke the Hormel Chili with no beans in the floor's microwave oven, some hot dogs "grilling" inside the pizza oven and buns being warmed on the top of the oven. Tried hamburgers but a little too greasy and the grease would get on the coils and start to smoke. Grilled cheese, hot ham & cheese, quesadillas, etc... Should have made a cookbook.
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Old 03-20-2020, 09:07 PM
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Not a cookbook, but certainly a cautionary manual.

Started a fire once, trying to make bacon in a pop up toaster. It worked fine until enough grease accumulated inside the thing....
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Old 03-20-2020, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Master Wang-Ka View Post
Not a cookbook, but certainly a cautionary manual.

Started a fire once, trying to make bacon in a pop up toaster. It worked fine until enough grease accumulated inside the thing....
I can picture that!

I did try bacon, the grease went down to the drip/catch pan and oozed out the seam in the corner and made its way to the rug on my dorm room floor. Gave up on trying to clean the grease out of the rug and got a new rug.
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Old 03-20-2020, 10:15 PM
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You haven't lived on the edge until you try to flip pancakes with a pair of tongs.
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Old 03-21-2020, 01:11 AM
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Old 03-21-2020, 03:35 AM
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Nicely written. It made me nostalgic, and I wasn't even there!

Seriously now, what is it about youth that makes us remember lean times so fondly? Not that your text describes lean living in any way. Just the opposite, with your capitalist venture and bourgeois friends .

I can relate to your reminiscence because I have inexplicably fond memories of circumstances that, in retrospect, are nothing to brag about.

Hmmm. Maybe the question should be: What is it about adulthood that makes us remember youth so fondly?

Last edited by jerez; 03-21-2020 at 03:39 AM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 06:23 AM
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Late '73/early '74 I was going thru Avionics training at the Naval Air Station, Memphis. Cooking was absolutely forbidden in the barracks. No microwave, no coffee pots, no nothing. And there were regular room inspections, so trying to hide such things was nigh on to impossible.

That didn't stop my friend Nita - she would take her iron, turn it upside down and cradle it in the neck of her guitar case, turn it on, and put an open can of chili on it to warm up. Rather ingenious, I thought. She never shared, tho.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:09 AM
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I’d like to hear more details — and maybe other accounts — of cooking bacon by setting it on fire.

Does it self-extinguish before it’s black? Does it cook evenly? Is this a well-known practice? How far does it shoot grease droplets? How long does it take? Would this be useful for spelunking or storming castles at night?
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Old 03-21-2020, 09:18 AM
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I also had a kettle and popcorn maker. Why these were permitted, and others not? No idea. Never actually made popcorn, but I did do oatmeal, soup and mac n cheese in the kettle. Messy to clean out, though.

As it worked out my first three years I was actually in a dorm with an attached dining hall, so I didn't even have to leave the building to get a meal. Sundays were annoying because I attended church, which was at the same time as brunch, so I ended up making something for late lunch, if I forgot to take food from the dining hall with me (against the rules, of course).
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Old 03-21-2020, 09:25 AM
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:09 AM
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Chefguy: We tried pancakes. Too labor intensive, and time inefficient. When you have a bunch of grouchy hungover male college students (and the occasional female, despite all the rules; this is how I learned that women often get horribly hungover, too), you need to move FAST, and in the absence of a skillet, pancakes simply occupied too much popcorn popper time.

FairyChatMom: I am told of a guy in my dorm who used an inverted iron as a hot plate, held in place by large textbooks. Never tried that myself, as I lacked an iron. When I needed to iron something, I'd soak it wet, wring it out, and then plaster it up on the wall. When it falls off, it's ironed. The actual ironing of clothes would wait until a later stage in my life, so I did not own the appliance in question. I sort of wish I had known about this at the time, though; another hot plate would have been useful.

Baal Houtham: The immolation of bacon is an art, albeit one that's fairly easy to master, but it does require some trial and error. You don't want super LEAN bacon, because the burning grease is what fuels the cooking, and you don't want super THICK bacon because you'll get partially raw bacon. Weirdly enough, the worst, cheapest bacon, salt cured, greasy as a lardbucket and shaved thin enough to see through? That's the kind that works best with the Coat Hanger Method.

The practice is simple: obtain a wire coat hanger, hang strips of bacon over the crossbar, hang the coathanger somewhere safe and secure with a metal pan underneath, and ignite the bacon. It won't ignite immediately; hold the flame on the bottom of the strip until flame can be seen. Once the grease is hot enough, it'll ignite. About a minute to a minute and a half burn will give you good, cooked, chewy bacon; another half a minute will take you to crispy. You learn to eyeball it.

Safety tips: keep that foil pan beneath to catch drippings, some of which will be on fire. Do not hang the bacon too CLOSE to anything, as it will often sputter and spit grease in all directions as it burns. We finally hit on the idea of an ornamental LAMP I obtained at a thrift store for 29 cents because it didn't WORK; we just hung the coat hanger inside the SHADE, and the sputtering grease would hit the inside of the shade when it spattered; the foil pan was beneath the lamp, of course. This led to at least one occasion of high drama when an unknown person started banging on the door and we had to extract a burning rack of bacon from the lamp and transfer it to the outside of the window, and Boris panicked and forgot to blow the bacon OUT first, and accidentally dropped a rack of burning bacon out the window into the flowerbed two stories below when he burned his hand...

We actually had a few side bets going as to when the lampshade, soaked with grease, would eventually catch fire, but it never did.

Since then, I have restricted my bacon to a pan, although I understand there are a number of microwave methods. But if we'd had a microwave, much of this story would never have happened...
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Last edited by Master Wang-Ka; 03-21-2020 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:21 AM
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Upon writing this, and thinking back, I am reminded of the Lady Galadriel, one of the few women from the far side of the dorm who regularly came over to our side to order breakfast. Apparently, the idea of a quick breakfast without having to walk across campus to the dining hall outweighed the fact that she would have to eat it sitting on a bed with a bunch of hungover men in their underwear.

Still remember the time SHE showed up in her underwear. Upon seeing the rest of the crew's reaction, she asked to borrow a T-shirt, much to the chagrin of the peanut gallery; apparently, she'd wanted coffee and eggs badly enough that she'd forgotten to throw on a nightshirt, which speaks to the power of her hangover, I guess.

I remember her not for her underwear, but for the haunting beauty of the spontaneous poem she composed one morning, about the beauty of the dead lamp as it flickered with glorious baconlights.... now I wish I had thought to write it down.
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:22 AM
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Whoops, double post.
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Last edited by Master Wang-Ka; 03-21-2020 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:25 AM
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Chefguy: We tried pancakes. Too labor intensive, and time inefficient. When you have a bunch of grouchy hungover male college students (and the occasional female, despite all the rules; this is how I learned that women often get horribly hungover, too), you need to move FAST, and in the absence of a skillet, pancakes simply occupied too much popcorn popper time.
In this case, it was a training weekend for the police department, to which the auxiliary cops were also invited. Lots of shooting and spitting and peeing in the woods. One of my fellow auxiliary guys was also a cook. On Sunday morning he whipped up a huge batch of pancake batter and a giant tray of bacon (which he cooked in the wood burning stove), but then realized that the only utensils he had brought were a pair of tongs and a large spoon, neither of which are ideal for pancake flipping. So here's a bunch of hungry cops with, you know, guns, and no good way to make the cakes, which had to be done on a griddle.

After a few failed attempts with the tongs, he was starting to sweat and the grumbling started. I told him to fake it, grabbed the metal serving spoon and the hatchet used for kindling, went outside and beat the spoon flat with the butt of the hatchet. It wasn't ideal, but it worked.
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:39 AM
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..... So here's a bunch of hungry cops with, you know, guns, and no good way to make the cakes, which had to be done on a griddle.

After a few failed attempts with the tongs, he was starting to sweat and the grumbling started. I told him to fake it, grabbed the metal serving spoon and the hatchet used for kindling, went outside and beat the spoon flat with the butt of the hatchet. It wasn't ideal, but it worked.
That's fraggin' inspired.
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Old 03-21-2020, 01:09 PM
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You left out the most crucial bit of information!

How much MONET did you pull in that semester?

(I once opened a can of soup with a hammer and a nail...)


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Old 03-21-2020, 02:22 PM
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You left out the most crucial bit of information!

How much MONET did you pull in that semester?

(I once opened a can of soup with a hammer and a nail...)


~VOW
To be honest, I don't recall. I DO know that breakfast time only lasted a couple of hours, and that I was pulling down enough that even after costs, I was making WAY over what I'd have made at any burger joint at the time.

It more than covered the cost of my bad habits, which was my main priority at the time, and earned much goodwill amongst the brave soldiers of the Third Floor. And the other two floors as well. And the third floor women's section...
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Old 03-21-2020, 02:35 PM
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Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Master Wang-Ka.

We had an electric percolator AND an electric skillet. My roomie was a home ec major and she made (among many other things) baked Alaska in the electric skillet.

We also worked in the cafeteria during dinner and were able to obtain many supplies that way. Since Illinois is generally cold in winter, we were able to hang butter pats (patts?) and milk (in those single-serve waxed cartons) and so forth out of the window for refrigeration.

Last edited by kayT; 03-21-2020 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 03-21-2020, 06:28 PM
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I had an iron, and one of the cute water kettles and a Mr Coffee - I used it with a chemex and a classic teapot because I liked tea and didn't want it coffee flavored =) I made soups and stews in the kettle, hot water for instant anything in the mr coffee, and I used the iron as a griddle - grill cheese sandwiches by buttering both sides of the bread, cheese in the middle and wrap it in foil, and lay the iron on top of it, using a heavy folded towel as the base.
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