It's hard to not feel unreasonably difficult when your preferences transform something as theoretically simple, as mundane, as a diner breakfast order into a nightmare of small plates. (It’s way too early in the morning to deal with tapas.) And yet my lifelong aversion to eggs—that breakfast staple that is supposedly both incredible and edible—has transformed my desire for toast and hash browns into a minefield, one where I'm at the mercy of side-order markups and servers' suppressed scowls. I was a picky eater as a child, in part because of a teeming slate of allergies, and in part because of firstborn rights. Eggs, unmasked by cake or other disguises, were on my no-go list, right next to "cheese and bread on the same plate." (Crumbs, you know.)
Hard-boiled ones smelled like death. Scrambled ones jiggled uncomfortably on my palate right before I swallowed. Sunny side up yolks looked like Michael Jackson's end-of-"Thriller" eyeballs, waiting to be pricked open by someone on the hunt for a werewolf's scalp. My mother used to trick a younger, more naïve version of myself into ingesting eggs (and the benefits of their protein) by making super-thin pancakes—just a dollop of flour and a splash of milk, all covered in enough syrup to refill the maple tree in our backyard. But eventually I grew wise to her Bisquick-skimping ways.
Over the years my allergic profile and my tastes have shifted enough that I've let in a slew of foods that seemed beyond my limit. Crudo? Oh please. Bone marrow? Sure. A dripping grilled cheese with slightly charred crusts? Bring it on. But eggs persist on my ever-shifting list of self-banned foods, even in the wake of societal pressures like entire sections of brunch menus—at innovative restaurants and meat-and-potatoes pubs alike—being devoted to variations on omelets.
I've tried overcoming my dislike in the comfort of my home to low-grade success. I’ve scrambled egg whites until they squeaked, then coated the result in honey—which worked until I had recurring dreams about chewing overly sweetened air. I adapted a recipe for migos so that it used three-quarters of a jar of salsa, leading me to wonder why I didn't skip the middleman entirely and just make a quesadilla drenched in pico de gallo. At least the vegans, who I admire but do not count myself among, understand that tofu scrambles can be hit-or-miss, thanks to the way the tofu sops up what is (or isn't) around it, and a trip to Pagoda Café—a charming hut in New Orleans' 7th Ward that serves bracing iced coffee—allowed me to sample the much-beloved breakfast taco with its take on the frizzled soy protein. It was absolutely scrumptious.
I've made an uneasy peace with my dislike of eggs, although it can cause my anxiety to flare up—especially in delicate situations. While in Chicago for a music festival this summer, I had a gracefully hungover breakfast with a friend at the Cherry Circle Room, a wood-paneled, windowless sanctuary where titans of industry once knocked back strong cocktails and jawed about the sports teams they owned. The only item on the menu appealing to my finicky mood (and even more finicky budget) that morning was The Van Dozier—toast, hash browns, bacon, and, of course, eggs. I hesitated at first, not wanting to be that customer, but when I said, "Well, I am not too into eggs..." the server graciously suggested a substitution of fruit. No raised eyebrow, no "Are you sure?" It was a kindness that made me feel, if not less cloudy of head, slightly more understood. I didn't even complain that half the fruit offered was pretty much just melons.