The Universal Notebook: Let them eat egg salad

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Though it is safe to say that I am not a very discerning diner, I began to understand last week why Big Macs and Whoppers always seem to make me a little nauseous. It might be that “pink slime,” the ammonia-treated beef trimmings spun into a USDA-approved hamburger helper. Next they’ll probably tell us that Chicken McNuggets are made from feet, wattles and beaks.

Also in last week’s food news, we learned that eating any red meat at all will kill you. I think I already knew that, doc. But that does beg the question: Why isn’t meat taxed as heavily as alcohol and tobacco? And shouldn’t you have to be 21 to buy steak?

Surely you must have noticed that if you stopped eating everything that was bad for you, you’d be on a diet of – I was going to say bread and water, but they’re not good for you either. Kale and coconut milk? Spirulina and green tea?

Not only am I not a very healthy eater, I tend to be a binge eater. Not a binge-and-purge eater. Were that the case, I wouldn’t be 40 pounds overweight. No, I’m just a hungry man who goes on eating jags, craving the same foods until I’ve eaten too much of a good thing.

I’m just coming off a two-year bagel binge for instance. For hundreds of mornings I stopped by Mr. Bagel, purchased a nice, fat bagel loaded with seeds of all kinds, took it home, toasted it and then drowned it in melted butter. Then one day a month or so ago, I found I couldn’t finish my morning bagel. The rich, cloying, salty taste of the butter was just too much. My body was obviously trying to tell me something. Switch to cream cheese, it was saying. Maybe try a little lox spread.

This tendency to overdo it with food I like started in childhood. I once ate so much of Nana Gibson’s lobster Newburg, for instance, that I still can’t eat anything with sherry in it. And because we lived out of state for a few years, I used to pig out on Italian sandwiches (as my brother-in-law in Tucson does now) whenever we came back to Maine to visit. As a result, I have a gap in my gustatory history, an Italian interregnum for several years between Amato’s in Portland in the 1950s and Fruitland in Westbrook in the 1960s.

In recent years, I have over-indulged and had to take breaks from quite a few foods, among them the dol sot bi bim bop at Korea House, the house pho at Veranda Noodle Bar, the golden fried oyster sandwich at Po’ Boys & Pickles, the corned beef and Swiss on a roll with mustard at Full Belly Deli, the pulled pork at Buck’s Naked, Tony’s Donuts, and melt-in-your-mouth burgers at Roy’s All-Steak in Auburn and Harmon’s Lunch in West Falmouth.

But one food I never get tired of is egg salad. Whenever I get hungry while driving around the state on assignment, I make it a practice to stop at a gas station for an egg salad sandwich. There’s not much you can do to ruin egg salad and, for reasons unknown, gas stations always seem to have them, whether prefab in triangular boxes or homemade to order.  

I was on my way from Pittsfield to Ripley via Hartland and St. Albans recently when I pulled in at a likely looking gas station/convenience store somewhere along Route 152.

“How’s the egg salad,” I asked the woman behind the counter.

“Made fresh today,” she replied.

And there in that grubby little backwater gas station I purchased the best egg salad sandwich I have ever eaten – soft, chewy whole wheat bread, a generous helping of perfect egg salad, a little lettuce, salt and pepper. Mmmmm, mmmmm. I had egg salad in my mustache all the way home to Yarmouth.

An egg salad and a Yoo-hoo. Now that’s good eatin’.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.