OK, it is not as dramatic as it sounds, but I rather liked the title. I grew up in the grey drab and usually damp country known as the UK. It may be steeped in history, but I had no interest, from an early age I started plotting my escape.
The one thing that I was sure I would not miss in my new life was the food. By and large that is true, no longer do I have to guess the origin of a green mush AKA vegetable. My mother had a plan for Sunday lunch. At the point that the beef, lamb. chicken, or whatever went in the oven for a good roasting, she would start the punishment of the vegetables.
Over time I did realize that there a few things that I did miss, real Bacon, Primula Cheese spread, Walkers Cheese and Onion chips were the top ones.
It wasn’t until a week or so ago that I was reminded of another delight that I miss. Author David R. Stokes has just released his new book Capitol Limited, a fabulous melding of fact and fiction concerning an overnight train journey that then freshmen House Representative’s Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy shared in 1947. You can find the review here.
In the book David Stokes includes a delightful fictional account of Nixon and Kennedy having breakfast in the dining car. Deferring to his well healed new friend, the blue collar Nixon permits Kennedy to do the ordering, soft boiled eggs and toast.
The story stuck in my brain, Capitol Limited is so well researched and written, it seemed a crime to bring up such a minor point as the technical terminology used in the exquisite dish Soft Boiled Eggs and Toast.
Being the troublemaker that I am, I could not resist the temptation to slip the subject into the conversation when I interviewed him. You can listen to the interview here.
The very next day I received an email:
FYI, I revisited that chapter about the soft-boiled eggs — and reworked it for a revised e-book (it’s being updated now) — the passage now reads:
THE STEWARD BROUGHT the eggs and toast, as well as fresh cups of hot coffee, “Here you go, gentlemen. Can I get you anything else?”
Kennedy said, “How about some marmalade for the toast?”
“Right away, sir.”
Nixon looked at the soft-boiled eggs sitting in individual egg holders. Realizing that he’d never ordered them that way, he was not sure how to proceed. He decided to watch Jack for a moment before digging in.
Kennedy didn’t seem to notice Nixon’s delay and spoke up, “You remember when I mentioned about Churchill eating breakfast in bed?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, I watched him eat soft-boiled eggs just like these, in a cup. Never had them before then. Always liked mine scrambled. But I’ve eaten them this way ever since. He tore strips of his buttered toast—of course, he had four or five slices in some kind of holder—then he knocked off the top of the egg and inserted a strip of toast and drew it out covered with yoke. He said it was his favorite—‘soft-boiled eggs with soldiers,” Kennedy teased.
“Yeah, that’s what they call the strips of toast in the U.K., go figure. Turns out, it’s a pretty common breakfast.”
“Sounds great,” Nixon said while smiling.
“Yep, learned to eat eggs from Winston Churchill,” Kennedy remarked.
I have to admit that I was surprised by the edit. Such a minor attention to detail just goes to show the lengths that David goes to in order to be accurate.
If you have not read Capitol Limited, you should. It is in many ways a window into the politics and events that shaped the 20th Century.
You can get your own copy of Capitol Limited by clicking the Amazon link above. David Stokes also has a web site about this and his other books, www.davidrstokes.com.