Saturday, October 31, 2009

Elsie Cooks Breakfast


It was relatively slow at the club today. A steady drizzle deterred all but the most stalwart golfers and we had no events booked for the evening. Executive Chef Andre began doing inventory but soon announced in his lovely Jamaican accent that he was hungry. Normally that can be translated into, "Linda, bake muffins". But today, Elsie offered to make breakfast since she was hungry too. I decided to make cheddar cheese scones as my contribution. At the other end of the kitchen Elsie was furiously chopping, frying, whisking and buttering.

Elsie Dillard is 65 years old and has spent most of her life cooking for others. She can work a full day at the club and go home and whip up dinner for 200 at her church. When friends are in need, Elsie cooks and sells dinners to help them make rent. She holds the unglamorous title of "Prep Cook" at the club, but if she were matched against Joel Robuchon or Thomas Keller, I'd put my money on Elsie. Every morning she surveys the walk-in, starts grabbing a little of this, a little of that and a pile of leftovers. Chopping, throwing, seasoning, tasting - the day's soup is made.

And it's delicious. Always.

Elsie is also responsible for the staff lunch. She rarely gets to use anything fresh - the staff meal exists mainly to get rid of the stuff in the fridge that we would be throwing away if there were no staff to feed. Elsie manages to take aging meat, tired potatoes and wilting vegetables and create a feast for hungry employees. On very lucky days, she will make macaroni and cheese which is on my list of top ten things I've ever put in my mouth. Her salads are alive with flavor and harmonious in their construction.

And so, when Elsie declares that she's making breakfast, we begin our anticipatory drooling.

For me, there's just one catch - I had a heart attack in August and I'm supposed to be on a low-fat, low-carb, low sugar, low-flavor, wish-I'd-just-died-and-gotten-it-over-with diet. My willpower is legendary for its lack of existence, but I've done pretty well - choosing oat cereals, fruit and yogurt, that kind of thing (although I cannot bring myself to eat fake butter). Elsie knows all this, and yet she whacks off another chunk of butter and throws in into the pan. I can smell the bacon ripening in the oven. I deduce that she's trying to kill me.

There's another problem. I have not been able to eat an egg since I saw an episode of "The Next Iron Chef" where the cheftestants had to cook with disgusting ingredients. (Why do they always do that?) One of the chefs had to create a dish using an unborn egg with the fallopian tubes attached. I don't remember what he came up with, but he was voted off. I rememberJeffrey Steingarten snarling, "I can't even taste the fallopian tubes." But I couldn't tell you what happened after that because I was busy throwing up. And now I could hear Elsie whisking those chicken babies to death.

So here's Elsie's breakfast: Piles of scrambled eggs (with cheese, sans fallopian tubes), homefries with onions and peppers, fried apples, bacon and toast. The plate fairly glistened with grease which is exactly what a breakfast is supposed to do, especially here in the South. By pretending the pile of eggs was really a pile of cheese, I was able to choke it down. It was incredibly tasty and I'll just double up on the Lipitor tonight.



onlinepastrychef said...

I would like some awesome breakfast. Perhaps you could send Elsie my way? Please tell her that she can leave the avian fallopian tubes at home.

Susan said...

Good for Elsie! Being a Southern woman myself, I believe that a "healthy" breakfast is an abomination. My only question: where's the biscuits, sausage gravy, and country ham?

Debbie said...

Elsie cooks meals that I could love...I have a question since I live in an improv kitchen-we create it out of whatever is there-I was making a muffin recipe this evening(Peaches and Cream) and it called for self rising flour..I don't use self rising flour...could I use bisquick and lighten it in the food processors with a few spins?ati

Kitty said...

Debbie: Self-raising flour is just regular old plain (soft wheat) flour with leavening already in it.
To convert plain flour into self-raising flour, add two teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt to each cup of plain flour. Adding one teaspoon of cream of tartar, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda to one cup of plain flour gives the same result.
Bisquick is a whole different animal...