About twelve years ago, on a trip to New York City, we snagged a weekend at the Waldorf Astoria, the Park Avenue well maintained, older, yet elegant hotel in midtown Manhattan East. I don’t remember much of the weekend but I do remember the scrambled eggs I had at Sunday morning breakfast.
Listed on the menu as Vermont Cheddar Scrambled Eggs, they came in a small black kettle pot surrounded by toast points and bacon. They were a wondrous pale yellow, fluffy, just, and I mean just, this side of done. With the subtle flavor of the cheese, each bite melted in my mouth. I ate slowly, savored every mouthful, trying to decide whether it was appropriate to make a run for the kitchen and promise my first born grandchild for the recipe. My darling husband’s glance told me I would never make it out of the chair. The eggs, tho, made it so tempting to try.
I have thought about those eggs often over the years and wished I had tried.
Created by Rex Stout, Nero Wolf, the gourmand of ginormous proportions who along side his clever and intellectual style of crime solving and cultivating orchids, ate. The books are full of food discussions, but in one story Wolf, making eggs for Archie, I believe Fritz was on ‘assignment,’ waxed quite philosophical about how to cook scrambled eggs. For Nero, it took at least forty minutes, on a pre-warmed pan kept at low heat to make sure the eggs cooked but did not fry.
Laura Hillenbrand, in her book SEABISCUIT writes of the race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral, a length of one and three-sixteenth miles. Seabiscuit won in four lengths, a track record of one minute, fifty-six point six-seconds.
If you have ever watched the actual race, or the movie made from the book, you know it was stunning. In Ms. Hillenbrand’s book the race proceeds over several pages, taking more than one minute, fifty-six point six-seconds to read. Her ‘telling the story’ as she likes to say, puts you on the track, with the horse, with the rider. It is what makes her writing so amazing.
I have two stories. It doesn’t really matter how many words are involved. Time is an essential part of both my stories. In the picture book I have about three hundred words to describe one whole week in the life of this child. And, of course, what he does with it that will be of interest to a child reading the story.
In the middle grade, I have, well, a lot more words to describe just the main character’s father’s arrest for murder, which is the catalyst for how the story moves forward, making her story exciting, believable and yet come to a satisfying ending.
Sigh. I doubt I would ever spend forty minutes making eggs a’la Nero Wolf. And I doubt that chef at the Waldorf took forty minutes.
Real time is elusive. It is a commodity and it is a constant.
But when I write, what is it? Do I care about it? Do I use it well? Do I make every second feel real? Or is it a way to simply keep the pace of the story?
We had scrambled eggs for breakfast. And I realized another way to add dimension to my writing. It does take time to make really good scrambled eggs, and it does take time to make every second of the story count.