Ask the chef


by Ari LeVaux

Q: Dear Flash,

My sister eats egg whites and throws away the yolks. She says it’s the high-protein, low-fat, low-cholesterol way to go. Personally, I’m astounded at this, as the yolk seems, to me, the only thing in the egg worth eating. Is my sister crazy, or is she on to something? Also, sometimes I get the sulfur burps when I eat eggs. What’s up with that? And what’s your advice on the best way to hard-boil an egg?

–Yolk Friendly

A: I agree with you, YF, your sister’s egg-white habit is odd, even mildly disturbing, though she’s hardly alone. I used to work with a weightlifter who peeled eggs on his coffee break and ate the whites. Egg white is about 90 percent water. So all that cooking, peeling and yolk-tossing seems like a roundabout path to a tablespoon of protein. But when I asked if I could eat his yolks, he looked at me funny. The whites do have interesting culinary properties – you can beat them stiff, for example. Along the same lines, scrambled yolks wouldn’t have the body of scrambled eggs. But imagine the opposite: scrambled whites. That’s kind of scary, actually. Scrambled substance, devoid of flavor. You can make mayonnaise without whites, though not without yolks. To me, that is significant. Those decadently satisfying yolks, full of flavor and fullness, are why we like eggs. Sure, yolks also contain cholesterol and saturated fats, and if you think you’re fat, or have high cholesterol, you should consider these things.

Meanwhile, yolk also contains poly and monounsaturated fats, carbohydrates, vitamins A, D, E, K, B-6, B-12, iron, folate and many other trace elements and minerals. Those sulfur burps you asked about, by the way, are created during cooking, when sulfur and hydrogen in the egg white combine to form hydrogen-sulfide gas. By over-boiling an egg, you increase your chance of sulfur burps.

And the best way to boil eggs, in my opinion, is to start with the eggs in cold water, on high heat. When the water boils, turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the water until cooled. Alternatively, turn off the heat when the water boils, wait 20 minutes, and then plunge the eggs into cold water, which will make them easier to peel.

Q: Dear Flash,

I’m a vegetarian, but I have a weakness for bacon. When I smell it cooking, my mouth waters. At the salad bar, I want bacon bits on my leaves. Sometimes I’m caught looking at strangers’ plates in restaurants. What’s going on, and what can I do about it?

–Bacon Craven

A: I might be making some unfair assumptions and tasteless associations here, BC, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but you remind me of Idaho Sen.Larry Craig. His version of your letter would read:

“Dear Flash,

I’m not gay, although my wide stance on the toilet apparently brings my feet into proximity with the feet of strange men in the adjoining stalls of certain public restrooms. Once, I even got busted for playing footsie with a cop (and for some silly reason, I pleaded guilty!). What’s going on, and what can I do about it?”

Do you see the similarity here? It’s as if your mind, for whatever reasons, is vegetarian, but your body is omnivorous – not only equipped to digest and derive nutrients from both plant and animal matter, but actually craving the chance to indulge its capabilities. The fact that the smell of bacon makes you drool like Senator Craig at the Policeman’s Ball suggests it’s time for a reality check.

As for what you can do about it, well, there are many shades of omnivore. There are those who truly don’t care what they eat, including People for the Eating of Tasty Animals. There are locavores, who eat only local, happy meat raised on idyllic farms. Another dietary species, wild-gametarians, will eat only meat that lived free until it died. There are also several Californian subspecies, including ovo-lacto-fishtacotarians and the northern strawberry-blondivorous Humbolt herbivore.

You sound like a bacon-vegetarian – a common condition in herbivores teetering on the edge of omnivory. The reason people like you are vulnerable to bacon is that, while it smells good enough to trigger involuntary physiological salivary functions, there is no blood or any other recognizable evidence that this bacon once had a face.

That’s the answer to your first question. As for what can be done, I suggest you self-medicate with fried sliced pork belly, ideally from an idyllic local farm. Start slowly and gently – mere nibbles – and see what happens.

But if you insist on denial, you can try this trick I invented years ago during my own vegetarian fling. It’s a technique for making tofu taste like bacon.

Cut a brick of firm tofu into centimeter cubes, and fry them slowly over low heat in olive oil, stirring and scraping after they start to stick. When the cubes weep out water, add a touch of honey and soy sauce, and keep stirring and slow-frying until they begin to look a little, and even smell a little, and actually taste a bit, like bacon. Then close your eyes and use your imagination. •

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