Eggs Benedict and Martin Short have very little in common. Eggs Benedict is made with Canadian bacon; Martin Short is hammy and Canadian. One is served on an English muffin with hollandaise sauce, the other co-starred in ¡Three Amigos! And the comparisons end there, except for the fact that Martin Short and eggs Benedict were two looming obstacles in my relationship with Craig, my boyfriend of nine months.
I can't remember precisely when or where it first happened, but my hunch is that we were at Balthazar enjoying one of New York City's best breakfast bargains (eating in a lustrous environment at diner prices). Craig ordered eggs Benedict, and when it came out, he tasted and said, "It's good but not as good as Glo's."
Glo's, he informed me, was a small homey diner in Seattle that served the best eggs Benedict anyone could ever fathom.
"What's so great about it?" I asked.
"What's not great about it?" he replied. "The eggs are perfectly poached. The English muffin is perfectly toasted. There's Canadian bacon and grilled tomato on it, and the hollandaise is perfectly creamy and tangy."
At the time he said all this, I nodded kindly, not thinking for a moment that I'd ever have to put his claims to the test, feeling that a trip to Glo's was as likely as the Balthazar waiters forming a kickline and singing the theme song from Frasier.
And yet, a few months later, Craig invited me to join him in Seattle at the end of December. Because I decided not to join my family on their yearly Caribbean cruise from Hell (if I ever again witness a parade of waiters with trays of flaming baked Alaska singing "It's a Small World After All," please shoot me), I had no reason to say no. Plus I wanted to see Seattle, to meet Craig's friends and family.
"And you'll finally get to eat Glo's eggs Benedict," Craig said as the plans became more final.
"Yes," I said, though I was a bit nervous. This is the true test of a relationshipwhen one partner reveals to the other something they love, something they cherish. This is where truth and kindness do battle. Must one automatically love what their partner loves? Or is there always room for honesty, for a rational evaluation? What's more important, loyalty or integrity? And that's how we get to Martin Short.
MARTIN AND ME
In the early '90s, I was a manic, quirky teenager. My walls were festooned with Woody Allen posters, Salvador Dali postcards, and a cardboard cutout of Darth Vader. One night I decided to record on VHS a Martin Short special on NBC. I knew I liked Martin Short, and recording the special was a pre-emptive move in case it was really funny and I'd want to watch it again. This decision was not unlike Gertrude Stein's decision to buy a few Picassos early on in case they might be worth something someday.
The tape became my comedy Bible, my Rosetta stone, my first star on the right straight until morning. I watched it over and over again, memorizing the monologues, doing the character voices, hoping that one day I'd get my own comedy special and inspire the hilarity that Martin Short could inspire with just one look or gesture. It was with this enthusiasm that I showed the tape to Craig before we left for Seattle.
"OK," I warned him. "The writing isn't necessarily great. But he's great. Pay attention to how he uses his voice and his face and his body."
The tape started, and right away I could tell the grin on Craig's face was plastered on. I counted the number of times he laughed: four. The moments I found the most hilarious in high school passed over him like a crazy person on the subway whose presence you're well aware of but who you ignore for your own protection. When it was over, I asked him how he liked it. He said he could see why I liked it. This, I thought, was the most obnoxious politically minded statement a boyfriend could make. He was the Dan Quayle, the Ross Perot, the Karl Rove of dating.
In his defense, though, he was only being truthful. He didn't find it that funny. Very well, I decided. When we get to Seattle and I taste those eggs Benedict, I'll have my revenge. I'll pretend that I like them and then, when I get home, I'll write up a piece on Serious Eats declaring them to be sour, gummy things, an atrocity of texture and flavor. I'll remove the Martin Short knife from my back and stab it into his. I'll be an eggs Benedict Arnold.
BRAVOS AT GLO'S
Yet, when the time came, I knew my act of sabotage was ill conceived. The line outside of Glo's on the Sunday morning we arrived there was a testament to its popularity. Smiling customers sat outside on plastic chairs sipping coffee from ceramic mugs as they waited for their names to be called. We put our name on the list and we were told it would be an hour. Craig's docile reaction suggested that no wait time would ruffle his feathers; eight weeks would be a perfectly acceptable wait for Glo's eggs Benedict.
An hour later, they sat us at a table near the door. Cool air rushed in every time it opened. On the front of the menu was a picture of Glo, now deceased, founder of Glo's and a beloved member of the Seattle community.
Rena, Craig's friend who came along with us (and Craig's sister, Kristin, too) said she remembered coming to Glo's once and ordering sourdough toast.
"Glo said they were out of sourdough," Rena said. "So I asked for white, and Glo suddenly went on a tirade about there being lots of different kinds of toast besides white and sourdough and why did people, when they were told they were out of sourdough, always choose white? There's rye, there's pumpernickel, there's this and that. So I ordered rye toast instead, and from that point on I have always ordered rye toast."
We placed our orders with an overworked waitress. Craig ordered the traditional eggs Benedict, and I ordered smoked salmon eggs Benedict because smoked salmon is one of my favorite things and Pacific salmon is extremely special. Rena suspiciously ordered an omelet, as did Kristin. If the eggs Benedict here was so good, why weren't these Seattle residents ordering it?
(I just put this question to Craig now and he said, "I think maybe my sister doesn't like eggs Benedict. And Rena, I'm not sure. But just because eggs Benedict is my favorite thing doesn't mean it's theirs.")
We waited 45 minutes for our food. Strangely, the place made me feel like I was in Italy, where people graze over their food and understand that things made to order take time. We sipped coffee and cappuccinos and talked about serious issues, like why Kristin doesn't have a cell phone. Then the food came.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, but these eggs Benedict were piping hot. The look on the plate, though, was nothing less than enticing.
"See," Craig said, staring at me with eager eyes. "Isn't that the best-looking eggs Benedict you've ever seen?"
I cut in and the yolk spilled out, coating the plate in orange unctuousness. I carved through the salmon and the bread and then lifted the fork, swiping it through the hollandaise. Craig watched me eagerly.
I took a bite and felt a tangy warmth, a deep sense of decadence and pleasure.
"Mmmm," I said.
Craig was delighted. "I told you. It's the best in the world."
Statements like that are difficult to contradict. How can anyone know what constitutes the best eggs Benedict in the world? But in this moment, because of Craig's enthusiasm and my open mind, they were and remain some of the best eggs Benedict I've ever had. If Martin Short were there, too, I bet he'd say the same thing, even if his antics only caused Craig to smirk. There's no accounting for taste.
About the author: Adam Roberts is The Amateur Gourmet. His book, The Amateur Gourmet, will be published by Bantam/Dell in summer 2007.