The Elusive Devilled Egg

Last night I watched an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s the one where Larry holds the elevator for a woman who then proceeds to unconsciously body block the corridor and beat him into the doctor’s office where they both have appointments. The woman signs in first and, as a result, gets seen first by the doctor even though Larry’s appointment time was earlier than hers. Outraged, Larry then tries to enroll the entire office staff and waiting room in the gross injustice of it all. And today at lunch at the farm shop I had my very own Larry-esque experience.

I’ve written about the farm shop before—it was a revelation when we found it because it specializes in vegetarian lunches. That’s an unusual gastronomic gambit in this pie and sausage and chips and mash part of the world, but one that has found an audience in that rare Cotswold breed of eco-friendly yuppies slinging free-range cotton wearing toddlers from their hips and at least two people who miss California.

One of the highlights of the farm shop veggie lunch is that it comes with an array of salads. But lately we’ve noticed that if we don’t get there early enough in the lunch service the salads start to dwindle. So instead of lentils vinaigrette, roasted beets and bulgar with your courgette lasagna, you might be pawned off with some greens tarted up with a dash of shredded carrot. Today when we arrived I was heartened to see that generous portions of all salads remained on display in the orange Le Creuset dishes that line the counter where you order and pay. And I was delighted to see the day’s salad selections included devilled eggs, one of my favorites. (Yes, I really am sad enough to get excited over a devilled egg. I promise you when it is an egg from a chicken on the farm where you are eating it is worth getting excited about.)

Husband insisted on starting with a small bowl of spinach and potato soup. I hesitated, not because spinach and potato soup sounded bad, but because I suspected that would mean the salads would start running out while we dawdled over an appetizer. I examined the display of salads again. I may have even counted the devilled eggs. And then I reached way down in the depths of my dignity and self-restraint and ordered us two bowls of spinach soup to be followed by the curried chick pea stew with herbed polenta for husband and a beetroot and goat cheese tart for me.

Next we had to find ourselves a table, a task made all the more challenging by a large shopping cart planted in the middle of the dining area. The cafe is connected to a shop that sells produce from the farm plus the standard upscale, we-fancy-ourselves-green assortment of Fair Trade, Ecover cleaning products (or “dish soap without suds” as husband calls it), and imported Indian print tablecloths. (Lest you think I am mocking such eco-consumers, which I am, I’ll ‘fess up now to having purchased from all of these product categories at one time or another.) Of course there are no new shopping bags on offer, so the contents of this shopping cart were lying loose in the cart or stuffed in second hand plastic bags or old cardboard boxes. The overall effect was to make its owners — who were in the midst of enjoying plates of stuffed peppers — look homeless, an image further perpetuated by the woman’s holey woolen socks encased in cork sandals. It took a double take to realize the holes were on purpose, an inexplicable variation on fingerless gloves.

We had just managed to wedge ourselves into a table behind the trust fund hobo trolley when the spinach soup arrived. It was tepid so we sent it back to get warmed up. I tried to distract myself with The Secret Agent column in the FT, but I just felt self-conscious holding my pink paper what with all the Soil Association and mother earth anarchist genre publications littered about. And inside I was starting to fret about what I imagined to be the rapidly dwindling supply of devilled eggs. The spinach soup came back hot, almost vindictively so. More time passed while we waited for the soup to cool down, but when it did it was good enough to occupy me until our entrees arrived with, sure enough, no devilled eggs.

“Are you out of devilled eggs?” I asked the waitress even though the answer was as self-evident as the dismay on my face.

“Oh yeah, sorry,” she replied flatly and walked away.

At that moment I felt a sense of violation that I knew Larry David would understand. There was, after all, an undeniable injustice about the fact that I had ordered and paid for my entree well before any of those people who actually got to eat my devilled eggs had done the same. Surely my payment should have put a hold on a devilled egg? But no, the sacred and implicit devilled egg reservation contract had been broken between the farm shop and me. I avoided an outburst this time — after all there were all those free-range cotton wearing toddlers about that I didn’t want to upset — but next time I think I will be taking my devilled egg with me when I order.

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