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Friday, August 2, 2013

Baby-bibs and poached eggs 2

   Whatever you do, don't touch the poached egg.

I don't know the method other patients use to manage eating their meals, because I never see them at the task. In fact, I never see them at all except when ferried to Oncology by Tracey, and that's only once every three weeks. I've been here just two, so had I been interested, which I'm not, I'd have been lucky to see them at their repast.

Stable Table
   My method is simple enough. I have a stable table which I put on my lap, use the chair button to get it to perfectly horizontal, and Denise puts the entire tray of goodies on it. Being thoughtful, she has opened every item that needs it even before coming into the room. She also butters the bread so deftly that it almost makes me cry at my loss of effective use of the right hand.

    I can manage everything from then on.

   But there's one small thing. To have a perfectly level tray, there's a fair angle on my trunk – my body, that is. If sitting at the dinner table is 90 degrees to the horizontal, then this is about 150. 

   Ardent students of geometry, a beautiful subject of study, will know that this lengthens the distance between plate and mouth. With soup or something a bit sloppy as main course (that's most things that I seem to choose, except for the grilled fish), the chances of dropping something on a fresh shirt increase exponentially at that angle. 
   Therefore, one needs a bib. Let's face it. When visitors come, one does not look as dignified as one would like with dobs of tomato soup, marmalade jam, and something optimistically referred to as blueberry cheesecake forming runic patterns between navel and neck.

   Sticking serviettes into shirt tops just doesn't do it for me. They come adrift from their moorings and simply get in the way as I intently explore the culinarily adventurous contents of the bowl of minestrone soup. The serviette hangs at a sad angle, allowing acres of shirt front to be open to guerilla attack and eventual occupation by the enemy.

   Invariably it happens, sometimes on the very last mouthful.

   In the desire to finish the task in a totaly unsullied condition, one sometimes makes the fatal error of rushing the soup spoon through the last few centimetres to the gob. Instead of a graceful glide of the implement to the lips, one's hand trembles in anticipation. One knows one has failed, now made worse by slight miscalculation of angle of spoon to the very lips themseves. One now has soup dripping down one's chin and in a long thin stream from belly-button to breakfast time.

   One feels, and is, a dork.

   The poached egg. Stand away from the poached egg.

   To reiterate, I need a bib. I was going to suggest to Tracey that she make me one, with something like BIG BABY gaily written in huge kindergarten scrawl across the front.

   Tracey found merit in the idea, but would have come up with a more creative epithet.

   The idea was that anyone intruding on my meal (an operation usually out of sight of prying eyes because it's an unedifying spectacle), would see the humour in the bib rather than its sheer practicality, and we could laugh our way out of it.

   The scheme, which I thought brilliant, had one flaw. It was that the carefully designed bib would inevitably become spotty, fulfilling its purpose admirably but losing its virginal status faster than a precocious teenager.
   If a poached egg is offered, desist.

   The bib would need washing, and I would find myself bibless and fearfully exposed to the elements until the laundry maid at Allingham Street had done her task and returned with the bib in sanitised and stainless condition.

   I then suggested that all thought of washing the bib might be abandoned altogether, and to allow the spillage to create something artistic as the days went by. Aeolian in its way, visual music composed of organic detritus of many colours like Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, only a bib.

   I liked that. A certain je ne sais you know what.

   I do know one thing at this point. My similes are getting out of hand.

   By the way, never tick the poached eggs box on the menu.

   With some reluctance, I abandoned the artistic idea. In my opinion, it may have been a sad loss to art, in view of some of the monstrosities currently posing in that guise. But Tracey vetoed it on the grounds of hygiene and lack of faith in art-of-the moment, which you have never heard of because I just coined the phrase. Art du moment, to give it a fancy title and instant respectability.

   Her veto is a veto as resolute as that of the Chinese Government in the UN Security Council. Or a veto by any one of that little club for that matter.

   Truth is, we abandoned the whole project. This was because when the nurse heard us talking about bibs, she went to the equipment room next door and came back with half a dozen freshly laundered bibs-for-adults.

   "Just leave it out after you use it and it'll go with the rest of the laundry daily."

   I think she may have overheard my artistic proposal. I felt a pang of regret that my art project would never materialise; that my unique chef d'ouvre would never be hung in the Louvre.

   Now about those warnings concerning the poached egg. They're ones everyone said in hushed tones here.

   I wasn't sure why they said it, but being of an enquiring turn of mind, the instincts of an historian and just plain nosey, when poached egg came up in the menu for the next day, I took the plunge.

   I expected that it would arrive either undercooked or like rubber, sitting marooned on an island of oozing soggy toast, sinking slowly in the middle, but no. I was shocked to find that it was cooked to perfection, sitting high and dry on its toasty island as if lightly dried off with a teatowel (maybe it had been) and would have made an perfect Egg Benedict had the chef gone the extra mile with bagette, fresh chives and Hollandaise sauce.

   I don't know what they were on about with all those warnings. Perhaps the contractors got a better class of auto-poacher.

   I can't deny the possibility that it was a fluke. A sample of one is not really good science.

   I've just got hold of the breakfast menu for tomorrow. If there's poached egg, it has my name on it.

   One last word on bibs. There's a variation on Murphy's Law that says if there's even one centimetre of shirt left uncovered, that's the spot the tomato sauce will fall. I reckon Murphy has engaged the services of a shirt-seeking nanobot inventor and has these bots in the soup et al cunningly disguised as pepper.

   Don't mock me. Just open the tiniest window on what lies beneath the bib, even right up at your shirt collar, and give it a go with baked beans – which, incidentally, I had yesterday morning with marmalade jam on brown bread. Interesting combo it was. It's why I'm full of beans right now. And a pressing date with the bathroom.

   There now, you've got your promised bib and brekkie story – now leave me to my poached egg. Be off with you. 

Baby-bibs and poached eggs 1 | Baby-bibs and poached eggs 2


  1. That is hilarious!
    The only trouble with this wonderful account of your "tray-to-mouth" travails, is Dave is now inspired, and now wants me to make him bibs!! And I have a sewing-machine allergy. Ah me!

    1. Isn't Father's Day approaching? Can you suggest to one of your seamstress/seamster children that you may have solved a gift problem for one of them for the father who has everything? Am I full of good ideas or am I not?

    2. PS Make sure they or you make one/some of the hole for the head type, which can be put on one-handed. Not too snug nor not too large, bearing in mind the bots.

  2. Heehee! Love it, thsnk you, and please get the instructions for the poached egg from the chef d'arte because I love them but mine always come out runny and splurging all over the plate. Enjoy your brekkie tomorrow.

    1. I did a Twitter posting about that last night! Check the line. Thanks, Trish.

  3. Anyway, so what's with the two links to 365lessthings(dot)com re 'stable tables'? Inveterate link-follower that I am, I couldn't find a hint of same. Or is the 'stable table' one of the 365 less things they actually already did away with and your link is all "if you went there to find it, it's already been done away with" esoteric-higher-awareness sort of stuff?

    And what's your opinion of tapioca vis a vis (to use my only Spanish) sago? But no links!


    1. Oh, I see. That was too generic. It was just for the image of a stable table, which, in any case, I modified with the limited graphics tools on this computer so much they might not want an association with the image as it ended up. How desperate are you to see it?

      I preferred tapioca marginally to sago when made into milk-based puddings. Taste was near identical, but I liked the texture better.

  4. Not desparate, Denis. Just I always keep a lookout for stuff I may have missed which could assist. We had one of those tables, and I identify strongly with the problem of 'angle to mouth' that you put very well. Sorry to bother, and forgive poor attempt at humour.


    1. Not at all, dear chap! I guessed that you were joking, and the poor attempt at ironic humour in my response was lost as well. It happens so easily in written responses when we can't see faces.



  5. Well, I needed a laugh today and thanks to you I've got it! I've often thought that prone is my natural position in life but I've never found a way of eating in that position. Even reclining isn't easy - I've often wondered how the ancient Romans supped their soup. Or cut up their steaks. And, especially, how they ate their pasta! (Yes yes, I know some pedant who reads this blog is going to inform me they didn't have pasta back then but you know what I mean!). And I bet they all suffered terribly from indigestion. In fact now I come to think of it that probably accounts for a lot. Perhaps the Rubicon was in fact a type of anti-reflux pill. And of course every schoolchild in my day knew that Caesar's gall bladder was divided into three parts. Which must have been very dyspeptic indeed. Good night Denis!

    1. Eating is best done in a vertical position, full stop. We evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to do it that way. Drinking doesn't leave much latitude either, even with a straw.

      I'd be the pedant only because you were my student in Chinese history and we know where pasta comes from don't we? Poetic licence is allowed.

      Caesars had a lot of Gaul. All of it really. Cows have four stomachs. Therefore, ruminants are an evolutionary advance. N'est-ce pas?

  6. The Jackson Pollock of poached eggs!
    Thank goodness I normally only have toast because the idea of baked beans and marmalade could put a person off breakfast for life. Chilli jam maybe ... but probably not that either. The breakfasts of others are often too horrible to contemplate, although I do have a soft spot for bacon with maple syrup a la Canadienne, as long as I don't think about it too much. Even the Teutonic pumpernickel and cheese almost makes the cut but there are few things as perfect as a perfectly poached egg. If only I could consistently achieve the right degree of almost-runniness I could do it every single day. There is no meal more emotive or evocative than breakfast, particularly if there is Vegemite involved. Breakfast turns us all into children, so bibs at breakfast make perfect sense to me.

    Jenny D

    PS Is tapioca the stuff that some of us used to refer to as 'frog-spawn' or was that sago?

    1. The only exotic other combos of mine are cheese and marmalade on jatz/toast, and peanut butter and honey sandwich. Be afraid. I don't like the idea of the maple syrup thing. You're right about the poached egg — that's perfect.

      Probably sago based on milk was the frogspawn. Tapioca was a little larger — maybe cane-toad spawn — though the cane-toad invasion down to central Qld only just started when we were kids.

      Thanks for dropping in, Jenny.

    2. PS — I really like Blue Poles, and the fact that it was bought for 6 million dollars and caused such outrage at the price, and is now estimated to sell for 40 million only increased my satisfaction with the purchase.

  7. When you were discussing the bib saying BIG BABY, I was thinking a better line would be UNDER THIS CONTRAPTION IS AN AWESOME MAN.

    I was very aware of adult bibs since we had two for my Dad's care. His were made of quilted vinyl, much like our picnic table covers. They rarely went to the laundry, we just hosed them down after each meal.

    If you want a post-meal Jackson Pollock effect of a different sort, grow a beard (though Tracy of the Chinese-government level veto may step in.) My dad had a beard for most of his life. We encountered artist and archeological surprises when we visited him at the nursing home. Sadly, too many of these led to the beard's demise at the hands of the nursing home staff (might have been prompted by those mighty Tea Ladies, who knows?).

    As to poached eggs, I've been experimenting with microwave poached eggs, and I truly understand the Grail-like quest for the perfect poached egg. How have subsequent sample sizes worked out? Scientific method and intellectual curiosity demands more input.

    thanks again for your ever amusing anecdotes. I certainly should drop in more often (first typing was "drip in"- maybe that was subconsciously more accurate?)



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