In Memoriam: The Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg, for Ian

Today I learned that a friend from college passed away in a car crash over the weekend. Ian was one of those guys that I always just knew: we were placed in the same small freshman dorm and I can’t remember a day of college that I did not consider Ian Burgin a friend. He and I were cut from very different trees. I liked to play the part of the Southern belle, walking around the Vermont campus in my heels, and if there was snow, I most likely fell into it (while wearing snow boots, lest you think I’m too crazy). Ian, on the other hand, was from northwestern Massachusetts, not too far down the road from Middlebury. He was fond of the outdoors and plaid, studied Environmental sciences, and, I was convinced, was going to have some fabulous impact within the realm of sustainability. Where I spent many months holding my breath when the smell of manure began to waft its way through the state, Ian inhaled deeply, saying it reminded him of home.

Despite our differences, I loved the person Ian was and I always enjoyed his company. He was a wonderful person, so genuinely good, and good to talk to. One of my favorite memories of him is a recurring one: breakfast in Atwater dining hall. Always mindful of health and fitness, he started every day with a balanced meal, which included hard-boiled eggs. He would carefully peel the shell, separate the white from the yolk, and, leaving the latter on his plate, eat the protein-rich and cholesterol-free egg white, without seasoning. I was appalled. How can you eat that without the yummy goodness of the fatty yolk…and no salt?, I asked him throughout our first year. It just didn’t seem worth it to me. Ian, however, was more concerned with the healthful benefits of the egg over its flavor.

Over the years, our conversations often turned to food, sustainable eating, and farming, and the egg became less of an issue. His mother, he once told me, was involved in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” a book about one family’s decision to eat only food produced in the place where they live. I assumed this was his community in Massachusetts, but I never asked. Ian was someone who grew up with the ethos of local eating, something that I am only just discovering.

Ian and I did not stay in touch after college, our lives shaped more by our divergent interests than the ones we shared. All the more reason I was so deeply affected today by the news of his death. Ian, you are in my prayers.

The Perfect Hard-Boiled Egg, for Ian

  • Place the egg in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Do not salt the water.
  • Over high heat, bring the water to a boil.
  • Once a rolling boil is achieved, set timer for 3 minutes and let the egg cook.
  • After 3 minutes have passed, remove from heat. Let the egg sit in the water for another 8 minutes. Then, remove from the hot water and run under cold water, about a minute.
  • Let sit in the refrigerator for a half hour to an hour for best peeling results.

Food Memories: American Flatbread

I have not been together with two of my good college friends since, well, college. Not for lack of trying, but it just hadn’t worked out. So, a few months ago, we determined that this Memorial Day weekend would be the time to meet up. Emily lives in DC and has an apartment big enough to host, so Laura flew in from Chi-town and I got on the bus from NYC. 

Unbeknownst to me, an American Flatbread had opened in Clarendon, VA, near Emily’s place. On the first night of our Midd kid reunion, then, we headed over to the pizza place that had begun in Vermont and been the place of many dinners out in the early years of college. Because “local” and “sustainable” are core tenets of the Flatbread philosophy, the menu was a bit different, focusing on ingredients from farms and food providers in the Virginia area. 

the lovely ladies

We quickly settled on the sun-dried tomato and mushroom pizza as well as the New Virginia Sausage, featuring naturally-raised Bluemont pork in a homemade, nitrate free maple-fennel sausage (I’m quoting from the menu). The wine list wasn’t extensive or impressive, but I did find a good bottle: a Muscadet Sevre et Maine from Domaine Claude Branger in the Loire called Terroir Les Gras Moutons. Great minerality from the rocky, granite-filled soil and left on lees for 12-14 months, giving it a ripe, round, and  powerful nose that hinted at the fruity and floral aromatics of a riesling.

ours was an ‘06

I tend to greatly discount the effect that going to college in Vermont had on the developments of my own palette and more importantly food philosophies. I spent years eating locally-sourced food in the college dining halls: apples from orchards right down the road, cheese from Vermont dairy farms, and more. 

Middlebury College

To quote from the college’s site, “Dining Services sources food products from 47 Vermont food producers and also purchases small amounts of fresh produce from the student run organic garden. Twenty-five percent of food at Middlebury is local, and we divert 75% of food waste from ending up in the landfill through our composting program.” Sustainability is at the core of how Middlebury literally functions, from food systems to energy to research. 

Sometimes a reunion makes you remember things you never even realized you’d forgotten.