Sleep, according to my extremely lazy research, is not only good for consolidating memories and curbing inflammation but giving you what you need to “be a winner.” I used to be a highly accomplished sleeper, and slept through fire and burglar alarms and, at least once, my sister’s attempt to scare me by waving an actual axe over my head in our shared bedroom in the psychologically fragile months after I watched The Shining in our rainbow-themed basement. Now I have insomnia, due to conditioning (two wakeful children), proximity to a snorer, anxiety about the leftover spirit* of the former owner of our house, who used to take naked hose showers in the backyard while on breaks from her hookah smoking and in between police visits, according to the neighbors, and concerns about breakfast. I get up at least 3 times a night, to do bed checks, to see if the former occupant of our house is in the cellar with her hookah, or to pad around holding my lower back like an old man pretending to be a pregnant woman.
I realize that concerns about breakfast are not useful concerns, but I take comfort in knowing that there is at least one fictional character, an older gentleman who was on the same cruise ship as Enid Lambert in The Corrections, who reported that he went to bed thinking of his morning cup of coffee. So although his outlook was more hopeful than mine, I feel sort of validated by our shared interest. Even though he is a fictional character and a very minor one at that. At any rate, one night when I was up at 2 a.m., I decided to address one of the things keeping me awake by making “Egg Muffins” for breakfast. These are basically scrambled eggs and other things baked in a muffin tin. Sort of like a cheap mini quiche.
You can find a million recipes for these online, and they seem tremendously simple. They also seem like a weird outgrowth of the cultural drift toward hybrid food items, like the cronut, but I went for it anyway, and tiptoed around the kitchen, trying not to make any noise and placing pans on burners as carefully as if I were a bomb maker. I’m good at being very quiet. I can also manage a complete change of clothing without revealing any skin at all. This is the result of being the youngest of nine children from a Boston-area household in which every day we all engaged in relentless scrutiny and criticism of each other on such topics as how loudly we breathed to the shape of our ear lobes or whether we brushed our hair out of our eyes too often. I understood that this scrutiny did not arise from being inherently interesting, but from being potentially irritating. Any departure from the nightly group roast in the form of positive reinforcement would just unman us.
So I followed the directions for Egg Muffins, because following recipe instructions is my new jam. It’s basically just sauteeing some things and then combining those with beaten eggs and scooping them by the 1/3 cupful into muffin tins and baking them for 20 minutes. I realized I hadn’t preheated the oven after I got the stuff all made, so I turned the oven on, and because I know myself, raised both hands in the air, in surrender, or like those contestants on Top Chef who have to drop their knives at a certain point per the judges, if the contestants were total hacks with no right to be there. But I did it to prevent myself from fiddling around and adding cumin or geranium petals to the egg mixture. I had a lot of impulses involving tearing up bread, crushing those cardboard-like Nordic crackers into the mix, and squirting Sriracha in there, and I kept them all in check. i did this by semi-appropriating meditation advice and trying to observe my thoughts. It went like this:
Tilda Swinton is incredible in Trainwreck. Eyeliner plus a shorter version of the hairstyle of a Real Housewife and you can barely tell it’s her. Also, how does Jordan Peele look so different with a seemingly minimal makeup intervention in the Outkast sketch which I should watch again since the oven is not hot yet and I got the Egg Muffins recipe online anyway:
A line from a poem that has stuck with me since grad school: “The Lord has given you this boy to keep”**
What, if anything, do the Syrian refugees in Calais eat for breakfast? Is there a typical range of Syrian breakfasts, given ideal conditions?
What was the gist of the argument against using the Dutch teenager’s ocean cleanup machine to deal with the gigantic gyre of plastic stuff? That it won’t address micro-beads of plastic and might get clogged?
Is the former occupant of the house in the living room?
My mind is closed to any translation of Paul Celan other than Michael Hamburger’s, for better or for worse.
Hairless and hugely muscular men (we’re back to Trainwreck here) give me the willies.
The oven dings and I put the muffins in to bake. Suddenly exhausted, I set my phone alarm for 20 minutes and decide to go back to bed. I can’t sleep because a) the oven is on, b) when do I ever sleep? and c) did I grease the muffin pan? Because that step is emphasized in every recipe. I sit up and swear. My husband jolts awake: “What… what?”
“I didn’t grease my muffins!” That sounds super porn-y. “I didn’t grease the tins!” This just sounds like a euphemism for extortion. I was amazed to hear a firsthand account of “FMI” from someone trying to redevelop an area near Providence, RI and talking to the local folks whose cooperation he needed. FMI stands for “Figure Me In.” For real. I believe that the FMI in this case involved a couple of $40-$50K no-show jobs and a Toyota Corolla. Kind of modest, but still, yikes.
So I go back to the kitchen, and there’s no way of knowing if I did or did not grease the pan. I decide to go halfsies, because when does half-assing it in the kitchen not work for me? I remove the pan from the oven with ten minutes still to go, and try to scoop out half of the semi-solid “muffins” with an ice cream scoop, and then with a big spoon. There’s stuff caked on the bottom that I can’t get out. I definitely did not prepare the pan. I decide to leave 6 muffins as-is and then scrape all the gunk out of the other 6 holes. Then, grasping a full stick of butter (getting porn-y again), I try to coat six of the muffin tins. This sort of works. I dump the egg glop back in, realize the oven timer has been running, forget how long it’s been since the whole pan has been out, and then just shove it all back in and decide to cook it all until a fork comes out cleanly. I clutch my head for 8 minutes and then take everything out. This could be okay. I stick a fork in the unmolested muffins, and a puff of steam comes out, along with a smell I can only describe as dead leaves plus sewer backup. Why? WHY?! I let things cool and try to dig one out. Nope. I move to the other muffins, which have the butter layer underneath. These are half runny/half crunchy, kind of like popcorn inside a poached egg, but the popcorn is also made of egg. I have been vomited on a lot in the last five years (why should I explain that? Just take a guess), and I feel like I have just conjured up all that vomit and cooked it for breakfast. Like all the inflammation my body is surely experiencing from never sleeping has taken on a form outside of me, a stinking form that, despite my unconsolidated memories, is indelible. We now have no eggs left, there is no milk in the house so cereal is out, so because I’m a winner, I elegantly solve breakfast. There will be none.
*This phrase borrowed from a poem by Peter Richards
**By Julia Beach, paraphrased because insomnia=poor memory