Bread And Butter: Goldrod Eggs
There are some foods that just scream Holiday Season—the warm and spicy snap of gingerbread, the creamy throat-coating decadence of eggnog, the crisp and golden-warmth of apple-sauce-smeared potato latkes.
And then there are the posers. You know, the foods that are supposed to be holiday favorites, but don’t seem to ever appear on a seasonal spread in anything except Dickensian (Dik-ensey-un) fiction. Goose, for instance. I’ve never eaten a goose. I don’t know anyone who has ever eaten a goose. I’ve had duck— it was kind of greasy and I imagine a goose might be sort of similar—except more of it. You read in books about how everyone and the dog needed a roast goose on the table to make Christmas proceed as fate intended. But does anyone really eat goose?
Fruit cake is another one. My mother-in-law used to tell me about making pans and pans of dense fruit cake and sending it in repurposed tins through the actual mail to her far-flung relatives. I think I’ve eaten fruit cake before, because I can recall a memory of tangy, dense bread interspersed with overly sweet bits of dried pineapple, dates, raisins and cherries. It might be a made-up memory. But it still wasn’t good. Which is probably why you rarely see it on holiday tables these days.
Which brings me to the sorest spot in my family’s holiday table—Christmas breakfast. I grew up eating Goldenrod Eggs on that iconic morning. We’d hard-boil a dozen eggs, and peel them, separating the whites from the yolks. The whites would be chopped and folded into a basic white sauce (also called a Béchamel, if you want to get fancy). The warm goop was spooned over crunchy toast, topped with crumbled yolk, and dotted with fresh-ground black pepper. I remember the dish being warm and settling, a comforting and stable breakfast on a fast-paced and strenuous morning.
My husband’s family grew up eating German pancakes. Another egg-based breakfast, but a world away from my Goldenrod eggs. If you aren’t familiar with them, German pancakes are made by furiously blending eggs with a scant amount of flour, cream and melted butter, and then baking them in the scorching oven. The eggs bubble and puff to a ridiculous height, and are covered with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Flashy. Unsubstantial. Sweet.
Guess which tradition my kids prefer? It kills me every year. I’ll tell you why: I feel like I’m a traitor to one of my mom’s tried and true holiday traditions. We didn’t have many, so I feel like I have to keep my claws in the few that stuck. I’m constantly pulling my kids from the psychological brink all of Christmas week. A little stick-to-your-ribs grounding wouldn’t go awry. I actually like the stuff.
When I began researching a recipe for Goldenrod Eggs, the only sources I could find were from old-school places like Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens. And a few blogs, that all included references to 1940s and 50s home ec classes. There are a few recipes for Eggs a La Goldenrod, which sounds a little more chic, but still involves glopping egg-laden gravy on toast. Martha Stewart posted a recipe for Goldenrod eggs that includes an addendum for handling “stiff” Béchamel when your guests are slow to come to the table and the cold gravy is un-spoonable. The recipe was posted four years ago, and still has zero reviews. Zero. I didn’t even know that could happen on the internet.
Listen, I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but I just can’t seem to give up the idea. Goldenrod Eggs somehow embodies the Christmases of my childhood. Warm, stable, comforting, not really very cool, but practical. And filling. And I wonder if that sort of breakfast tradition can endure these days of flash and sugar.
Maybe not. But I’ll keep trying. And might even try a bite of your fruit cake in solidarity this year.