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Monday evening, our family joined the village ritual to ring in the new year. Our oldest child stayed up with us until midnight, and we snuggly cuddled our sleepy youngest for the annual ball drop at Xenia Ave and Short Street. We arrived at the town center to a young and happy crowd. When we took our station, 2013 was within a minute’s arrival. A few teasing countdowns arose and dissipated until a more confident “10, 9, 8, 7,…” gained strength through the crowd.

The children were awake and curious, so we lingered longer than usual. The weather was colder for this event than it’s been in recent years but not enough to dampen our enjoyment. We touched the lighted disco ball and greeted friends young and old with hugs and a “Happy New Year”. A kissing snow added a magic twinkle to the evening. We caught flakes on our tongue on our way home.

After sleeping in, we woke up to the wonder of the new fallen snow. Light and fluffy, it gleamed with untested promise. We ate a hearty breakfast, wrestled into our snow pants, and dove outside. Perfect for snow angels and snow balls, the conditions gave us trouble when we attempted building a snowman. We did find a charming one posed in an attitude of admiration at the base of a new metal sculpture on Allen Street. Small and elegant by snowmen standards, it gazed up at the rearing horse with fearless awe. Around the corner along Livermore Street, we discovered low walls of plowed banks and climbed on top like great explorers on expedition. Weaving from wall to sidewalk, we made our way downtown to Dino’s coffeehouse open bright and early at 7am that morning. Cups of hot chai and coffee flowed, and we treated ourselves to good company, a discussion on Plancks Constant, and buttermilk donuts.

A new snow on the new day of the new year seems the very embodiment of guarded optimism. It is of course best enjoyed with prudent readiness: a good meal and layers of clean, dry winter gear as a start. Also, enthusiasm and imagination are essential. They keep both the heart and toes warm.

We took a prudent and creative look at breakfast over our winter break starting with a staple: the egg. In my humble opinion, the best way to eat an egg in its pure form is to poach it.

A poached egg

One egg
3 cups of bubbly hot water

Start with a fresh egg and crack it open in a low rimmed bowl. The freshest eggs maintain a firm structure in their whites; the whites of older eggs collapse into watery puddles. Slide an egg with an intact, unmolested yolk into a bath of bubbling hot water. Don’t wait for a hard boil as this will over cook the egg.

As the egg cooks, the egg white will change from clear to white and, as the egg achieves to a soft-cooked yolk, will start to cloud the water. It is easy to take the egg out too soon; so, to test the egg’s progress, jiggle the pan occasionally to test the yolk. The yolk will noticeably jostle if too soft. My preference is to leave the egg for about a minute after the yolk firms up.

If the water clouds up significantly, pour out some of the water so you can check the yolk’s firmness and color. The egg should be near done at this point. For a firmer yolk, simply remove the water from heat and let the egg cook for a few minutes in the warm bath.

Remove the egg with a slotted spoon or spatula. Don’t feel that you need to rescue all of the whites. The center of the poached egg has the best aroma, taste, and texture. Leave any trailing bits behind and scoop out just the firm elliptical white with its center yolk. Serve plain or embellished on toast.

Serves one.

The poached egg is like a blank canvas, a new snow, a fresh calendar. Unpolluted and refined, it takes only imagination to enhance.

We may have gone overboard a few days before New Years when for Friday’s breakfast we fixed mountain muffins with a rich mushroom gravy. I cooked up a batch of hand formed sausage patties—ground pork mixed with diced onions and radish—and used the drippings to stir fry mushroom and mix a milk-based gravy. I poured my gravy over a lightly toasted english muffin and topped with sliced avocado and tomato. My husband was far less subtle and poured an handsome helping over his layer of muffin, avocado, tomato, and egg. Hidden below or piled on top, the gravy was a delicious, decadent embellishment.

In concession to a New Year resolution and an empty cookie jar, I’ve turned a conscientious eye to diet. Here, the clean preparation of a poached egg has much value. This week, I piled my mountain muffin with a layer of goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, and pea shoots. Atop goes a beet green from my counter top garden and the egg; and for fun I added a splay of white anchovy fillets. The result is a vision. My first bite dripped with the yellow paint of the soft yolk and danced with savory flavor.

So if, at the the start of 2013, you have a painterly yearning for a blank canvas, do consider the new year’s snowfall as a gift and the humble poached egg as an inspiring foundation.

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