- 1 egg
- Special equipment: 1 matchstick
And no, I'm not going to give a recipe for a boiled egg, but I do feel it's worth reminding you that if the egg is fridge-cold it should go into the pan along with the cold water when you put it on the stove, but if it's at room temperature - which is better - you should lower it into the water once it's started boiling. How long you want to cook it for is obviously up to you, but a beautiful, oozingly golden yolked egg had 4 minutes, as indeed mine does every morning. I also throw in a matchstick - rather than the teaspoon of vinegar or salt that some people swear by - but just because my great aunt always did and told me that it stopped the white cloudy substance flowing out should the egg crack while cooking. I think it does work, but I do it because I've always done it, not because I have scientific proof that it's effective.
And that's the thing about breakfast: there is a strong ritualistic element; that, too, brings it in line with feasting in general. I have the same breakfast every day. Early mornings are bad enough without having the spectre of choice to haunt you too. First thing in the morning, I'd rather make breakfast than a decision and so I only ever swerve from this out of whim or, occasionally, dietary restraint.
And like everyone with a weak need to be bound by habitual behaviour, I am irritatingly fussy. I want my egg to be Italian (free-range, organic and imported from Bologna, if you please: but seeing it, you understand why Italians refer to the yolks as 'I rossi' - 'the reds' of the egg). I want my salt to be Maldon and I want my sourdough bread to come from the Poilane bakery down the road. As ever, the butter has to be pale and unsalted and not fridge-cold, but not all sloppy-soft and oily either. I don't mind having a different breakfast, but I don't want a lesser version of the same one. Maybe it's my age.
I know it is the convention to offer various savoury delights for the breakfast table but in all honesty I can't oblige. My feeling is simply this: apart from the iconic ideal of the boiled egg and soldiers, what could be better than fried eggs and bacon, poached eggs on toast, scrambled egg with sausages? Yes, as Lord Lambton memorably said when found with 2 hookers, 1 black, 1 white, we all want variety, but I don't see fiddling about with the basic components of a traditional breakfast to make strange and wonderful cheesey-bacony-eggy-bready concoctions ultimately that satisfying.