There’s an old adage amongst Peace Corps Volunteers that goes like this:
A Pessimist will look at a glass of water and say it is half empty.
An Optimist will look at that same glass of water and say it is half full.
A Peace Corps Volunteer, however, will look at that same glass and say, “You know, I could bathe in that water.”
This morning was a culinary disaster. I woke up to Tyler preparing breakfast and thought I’d help out. We just bought a flat of eggs and a bag of salt to go with our bread and butter. Here’s where everything went wrong:
In Guyana, most people don’t use frying pans. Instead, they use two different kitchen devices. They are both from the Amerindian culture and are made out of cast iron. One is a round, flat pan that looks similar to tortilla griddle and is called a Tawa, or Roti pan. The other device is a bowl that acts as a fry pan/wok and has only two small handles. This is called a Cahari, or a stew pan. As you can imagine, Tyler and I are used to cooking with pans that have long handles on them. Burns have already begun to show up. Both the Cahari and the Tawa were generously donated by our landlady.
This morning Tyler decided to try to fry our eggs on the Tawa because three days ago he did it and it was a success. Two days ago, when I tried his method, the eggs ran off the pan, onto the Chinese-made three burner stove, and then onto the floor where our neighbor’s one-eyed-dog, Lassie, was there to lick it all up. Today, however, wasn’t so much of a success either.
First, Tyler forgot to grease the Tawa and the egg he cracked just stuck to the bits of charred, black cast-iron that have accumulated over the many years of its use. The egg-charred substance was collected into a bowl and consumed almost immediately because eggs with salt are so good when on a diet of bread and peanut butter.
Then, Tyler greases the Roti pan for round two and cracks his second egg. This one sort of explodes and then runs off the pan, onto the Chinese-made three burner stove, and then onto the floor. Lassie was not there. I laughed and continued to butter the bread that was on the other side of our kitchen. Then I stopped.
“Tyler, what is that smell? Did you rip ass?
“No, dude. I think we have a bad egg.”
“Oh shit, that smells horribly rotten. Getitoutside getitoutside! It smells like poop!”
The Tawa was covered in fried, rotten egg. It was time to put that utensil down and come to the agreement that our culinary skills were not keen enough to tackle the Roti pan. In shame, we decided to move on to the Cahari, which in theory would be a step in the direction of EASIER, but that would be assuming too much.
This time I took over the egg frying and plopped one into the bottom of the Cahari. Then, I took our makeshift salt shaker and added some to our egg. Since it is so humid here, you have to add grains of rice to your salt to keep it from congealing into one block. Being proud of my foresight, I shook my salt shaker with the utmost confidence that the rice had done their job and the salt would sprinkle ever so effortlessly into my golden egg. The rice did not do its job. And due to the combined mass, the pull of gravity, and my shakes of self-assurance, the collective force of salt popped the top off of the shaker and all the contents emptied into the Cahari and onto my egg. Tyler almost choked in laughter and I just stood there, astonished.
“You know, if I can scoop the salt out, I think I’ll be able to eat it”
“Chris, just start over. It looks disgusting.”
“Hypertension, Chris. Hyper-tension.”
Tyler was right. I suppose it wasn’t so much the loss of food as it was the loss of dignity. How difficult is it for two grown men with years of cooking history to screw up eggs three times in a row. I started over, succeeded and with all the bad eggs, Tyler and I put them into a glass and they occupied half the glass. Tyler looked at it and said, “It’s about time for a shower, no?”