Socrates Satrapoulos took a small skillet from a row of pots and pans. Carefully, he turned on a burner on the gas stove, then adjusted the flame as low as possible, until it was barely visible.
“Give me two eggs.”
Someone handed them to him.
Holding the butter in his hand, Satrapoulos began his lecture.
“First of all, you must never use oil with eggs. Use a pat of butter.”
He dropped the butter into the skillet, then placed the skillet over the fire.
“When the fire is low,” he continued, “the butter doesn’t burn. It melts slowly, and retains the fresh taste of butter.”
Everyone watched fascinated.
“As soon as the butter has melted, remove the skillet from the fire. Then break the eggs into it. One, two. Now you add salt and pepper” – he glared at the chef – “not after the eggs are cooked, but before they are cooked. Then cover the skillet, and place it over a very low heat.”
He turned towards the chef. “And now, when I remove the eggs from the fire, the yolk will be firm and covered with a thin, translucent layer.”
He removed the skillet from the stove, lifted the lid, and thrust the skillet towards the chef.
“Smell!” he ordered.
The delicate and appetising aroma of fresh butter wafted through the galley.
“And that, gentlemen, is how one cooks eggs.”
– from The Greek by Pierre Rey
I found this extract in our late parents’ book collection. In the flyleaf of a fiction paperback, titled The Greek, my mother had written: see p.38 to fry eggs.
I turned to page 38 and found the recipe, above. My mother took food seriously.
Published in 1974, the book is about a Greek jet-setting millionaire. Fay loved the high life. She also loved Greece. She fell in love with Greece in the 1970s. She felt it was her spiritual home. She loved the people, their passion, the dance, the food.
My mum (above) died in January, aged 93. She was a glamorous, obsessive, elegant, cultured, opinionated live-wire until the end.
A few months before Fay died, she was interviewed for a documentary film about love, titled All That Is directed by Wessie du Toit.
Fay never saw the film. It was screened at the ICA earlier this month and will be on Channel 4 TV in a few months time.
Fay used to cook me fried eggs for breakfast when I stayed with her. I was grateful to be mothered by my mother when I was a grandmother.
My mum would heat the olive oil really high, add the eggs, put a lid on and then turn off the flame.
We are trying to remember if she used butter or olive oil and now I cannot ask her.
I cook fried eggs in olive oil as I have done since the 1980s influenced by my late husband, Adrian Reid.
I love using this recipe from The Greek because a) It is in dialogue b) My mother made a note about it c) Butter tastes luxurious.
How do you fry your eggs?