“LOVELY place, warm welcome, friendly hosts. (Eggs a bit runny!).”
The exclamation mark at the end of the guest book entry was an attempt to soften the blow. It failed. As Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, points out, we are instinctively drawn to the negative. No matter the compliments (typical English niceness, I tell myself) runny poached eggs were proof this b and b lark wouldn’t work. The following weekend a handsome film director booked in. What a dish! And Ian was away the next morning (hurray for model railway exhibitions) so I’d have him all to myself. This b and b lark is just the ticket. Then: “I won’t want a big breakfast, thanks. Just a couple of poached eggs.” Just? Oh dear. This could be the beginning of the end of the beautiful relationship that never was.
Still, Ian had bought a dinky little egg poacher so how difficult could it be? “You just butter it and dangle it over a pan of boiling water,” he explained. What he didn’t explain was that the minute you broke the eggs into it the whites drained through the holes (what a surprise), and when you came to ease out the remaining rubber yolks you realised you’d used Superglue not butter.
Egg poaching, meanwhile, is one of those skills which everybody else has not only mastered but wants to share: swirl the water, put vinegar in the water, brush the pan with olive oil, use little green rubber pouches from Lakeland (they’re on order) boil for precisely a minute then leave them for 10 (it didn’t work, Delia. They were like bullets).
I vow to keep practising – on Ian, as I can’t even eat eggs, never mind cook them.
Then this morning’s guests point out an omission on our newly-created breakfast choices list. “You’ve got fried, scrambled and poached eggs, but not boiled ones,” they say helpfully. “And we love boiled eggs.”
It’s a good job they didn’t mention it earlier. “Can you even boil an egg?” my domestic science teacher used to ask in exasperation as I served up yet another culinary disaster under her expert tutelage. The answer, then as now, was “No.”