Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eggs Over Easy

During my time in Grafenwoehr, Germany, I was the post's Finance Clerk. For a while I ran around with our Company Clerk, Moe. Many of our evenings were spent in Pressath, a little town a few miles from post, a town where almost no one spoke any English. Our main hangout - but by no means the only one - was the Eis Diele ("Ice Cream Parlor") where the only alcoholic beverage served was cognac. You could (in the early 1960s) buy a bottle of perhaps eight ounces for five marks, at that time the equivalent of US $1.25. The cognac, however, was only a cut above wood alcohol.

The Eis Diele was run by a small middle-aged woman whom we all called "Mama." Later, the first double date for John, Irma, Anna, and me would conclude here.

Somewhere along the line Moe had bought a wreck of a two door car:
  • There were no rear view mirrors.
  • The front seat was a bench seat, unattached to the floor. When Moe put the car into gear the passenger leaned forward to offset the tendency of the seat to fall backward, taking driver and passenger with it.
  • On a left turn, or even when the road curved left, the passenger door would fly open.
  • Only more or less local trips were possible, as the radiator was virtually a sieve. Trips had to be planned with water supplies in mind. Every time we went to Pressath we stopped at a river on the way home and replenished the water supply.
Every year Moe had to get a post sticker for the car, showing that the car had been inspected and was "safe." These inspections were accomplished by German civilians who worked on post, and each year Moe arrived with a carton of cigarettes and left with a sticker.

Late one morning Moe called me at work. He had a yen for some eggs, something we were not going to see at the mess hall during lunch, and suggested we drive out to Pressath to another restaurant and bar - the name of which escaped me long ago. We did that - in our fatigue uniforms, which was against Army regulations - and arrived to find that it was not yet open. My recollection is that there was no sign setting forth business hours, and I speculate that they were generally open only for dinner and the evening bar hoppers. Moe and I had been there a few times but didn't really know anyone there - owners or management.

Nevertheless, Moe knocked on the door a couple of times and after a moment a fortyish woman answered the door. She spoke no English but told us in German that they were not yet open. At Moe's urging I asked whether the two of us might buy ham and egg lunches. She thought about it, invited us in, locked the door, and seated us. We ordered two beers and she asked how we would like our eggs. One hole in our collective German vocabulary represented the phrase "sunny side up" to describe eggs, and we went at it the long way around. We managed to get the concept across, and she smiled and told us it would be just a few minutes.

She reappeared with two plates, everything perfect except that the eggs were very well cooked. But we dug in and greatly enjoyed the novelty of having lunch off post, in a German restaurant, drinking beer. The tab came to less than a couple of dollars apiece. We left a nice tip and thanked her for making an exception for us. She invited us to repeat the experience any time we wished.

Well, then. The next day we went back and were greeted with a big smile. On being served the two beers we engaged her in a conversation aimed at getting her to cook the eggs not quite as long as she had cooked yesterday's. She soon understood and before long we had our lunch in front of us. The eggs were not quite as hard as before, but still a little overcooked for our taste.

The next day we asked for just a wee bit less cooking of the eggs and got that. On the fourth day we repeated the process, using thumb and forefinger to show that we were that close to perfect on the eggs, and on that day they were perfect when served. Alas, that was the only day this was true.

She was on a roll, and the next time we went she cooked them a tiny bit less. Still, we smacked our lips and made the appropriate appreciative sounds. Big mistake. Each of the next several days the eggs came out runnier than the day before, until we speculated that she was just waving them at the stove. We just could not get her to stop reducing the eggs' cooking time. She was on her way to some bizarre kind of egg soup, and not to be deterred. Eventually we gave up and returned to eating lunch at the mess hall.

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