Hard Times and Free Sandwiches (plus an egg recipe)

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The other day I locked myself out of the house for the third (or maybe fourth time?) this year. You’d think I’d put a spare key out already, but that’s not how I roll. I milled around the house for a second, checking all the usual places for a way in. I halfheartedly removed the screen from my bedroom window to try to climb in, but it hurt my tender little fingertips and my fear of encountering spiders in the struggle outweighed my desire to keep trying. It was 12:45 and I had a meeting at 1:30. 

Luckily, my neighbor gave me a ride, right after he stopped laughing at me. On a different day in a different month at a different time in my life, this would’ve been an isolated episode of comical errors, a slapstick situation to chuckle about later. Instead, it drove home my current truth. Times are hard right now. 

Despite a growing list of bylines, deadlines and opportunities on the horizon, I am broke as a joke. Not just broke either, BA-ROKE! Like “add some water to the handsoap, make mo’soap” broke. Like “maybe I ate scrambled eggs and sriracha for dinner three nights in a row last week” broke. Like “stack of bills on my desk, can’t do nothing about it” broke. 

But, Keia, I see your name everywhere?! 

Yes, but...deviating from the social norm is difficult and risky and it doesn’t always come with a regular paycheck. And, because my husband is in culinary school and working an hourly restaurant job, I’m essentially married to a college student. At 32. I’m not complaining about that. My husband is a hard worker and he’s following his passion too. 

My friend Dan the Pig Man likened my “alternative lifestyle”  to that of a carnie. To him, freelancers, non-corporate folks and the like are misfits living on the fringes of society.  Arteests, if you will. (That classification also included him, to be fair.) 

My mother half approves of this “life choice” of mine although it makes her a bit squeamish. FACT: My recent troubles elicited a sentimental card from her in the mail entitled, “I Prayed For You Today.” Sweet gesture, but a blatant confirmation that Mama is scared for her baby bird too, flying out in this world without a net. 

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I made it to my meeting early and ran into another friend of mine who asked how I was doing. I told her about locking myself out of the house. Then she asked, as most polite people do, how the writing was going followed by, “I see your name everywhere!” 

I smile, nod, and draw a deep, long breath (or was it a sigh?). 

You know, same ol’. Just trying to get out there, expand my opportunities. But...(long pause, another big breath) it’s a struggle and, you know, writing full-time isn’t as glamorous as you may think.” 

I couldn’t tell if it was the being locked out thing or the heaving breaths but my friend, who operates a lovely little cheese shop, looked at me and said, “Well, do you want a sandwich or something?”  

She offer me a FREE sandwich.  A fancy grilled cheese, nonetheless.  You know what I did?  I ate a FREE sandwich with gladness, once again impressed and humbled by the kindness of people at exactly the right time. 

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The recipe today comes from Lucky Peach Magazine, more specifically from Liz Quijada and Jamie McCormick of Abraco who contributed the recipe to the magazine. The star of the dish is eggs, an ingredient I have become intimately acquainted with in these thin times. I eat alot of eggs- scrambled, fried, over rice, over lettuce. So many eggs.  If I had a penny for every egg I’ve eaten recently, I probably could’ve made rent this month. 

One of my best friends offered me some encouragement the other day that was as funny as it was apropos. She told me, “Keia, if you wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some eggs.”  This recipe breaks fourteen of them and makes three ingredients- eggs, cream and onions-taste like a feast, even when you're not as broke as I am. 

Frittata Quijada (from Lucky Peach Issue #8

Olive Oil

1 onion, medium, sliced thin

1 1/2 Tablespoons salt

2 pints (4 cups) heavy cream 

14 eggs, beaten

Heat olive oil in an 8- or 9-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a large pinch of salt and sweat the onions until they are translucent and limp, but do not have any color on them. 

When the onions soften, add one pint of cream and bring the heat up. Reduce the cream by a third, then remove from the stove and cool. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Combine 1 1/3 cups of the cream-onion mixture with the beaten eggs, remaining cream and salt. Whisk together. In a separate NON-STICK skillet (I sorely missed this step, hence the skillet picture and not the ragged finished product), heat a slick of olive oil over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the egg mixture and let cook for a couple of minutes, just until the sides bubble up. Then place pan into the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until it is browned over top and firm in the center. 

Once the dish is baked and cooled slightly, invert over a dish and slice into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature.