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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Civilized life begins with boiled egg

Judith Martin United Feature Syndicate

In more primitive times, not being able to boil an egg was considered an identifying characteristic of the deficient bride.

Chosen for her looks and charms, she proved a bad bargain by being incapable of producing the simplest cooked breakfast.

The lesson here was supposed to be that the luxury of glamour is no compensation for a lack of basic skills. It no longer applies to brides, who are less likely to be shamed into mastering humble tasks than to inquire why the bridegroom can’t produce his own silly breakfast. Or why anyone needs a cholesterol-packed egg when there are so many sugary, ready-to-eat alternatives on the market. Or how it is possible to organize one’s life so that it is possible to have any breakfast at all, other than office snacks.

But Miss Manners wants to revive the cautionary tale about the object of desire being revealed as worthless by an inability to boil an egg. Only she is not referring to brides, bridegrooms or any other individuals.

She is referring to hotels. In her admittedly limited experience, the more luxuries a hotel promises, the less likely it is to be able to produce a correctly boiled and served egg.

Miss Manners has been served eggs that were evidently hoping to serve as tennis balls. She has been served eggs that were still hoping to become baby chickens. Some of these eggs are rolling around on flat plates. Others have been scooped out into soup bowls. And there is never a spoon with which to eat them.

And this is at the sort of hotel where room service comes with a rose in a vase, a large linen napkin, a dinner-sized knife and fork, and a dinner-sized price. As the rooms also come with vast amounts of self-praise about providing individualized luxury service, it is possible to request a spoon. You just have to be prepared to see a figure dressed as a 19th-century butler showing up at the door brandishing a huge oval soup spoon.

There may be little call for boiled eggs at such places, where so many fancier dishes are available that the other eggs must be ashamed of being associated with them. But that does not excuse the ignorance.

Civilized life begins with a boiled egg sitting upright in an egg cup. The problem of getting the top off the egg while preserving the rest of the shell sharpens the mind for the day. This may be done by tapping the top smartly with the egg spoon, coming in sideways with the butter knife or performing an execution with egg scissors that are traitorously decorated with a reassuring chicken motif.

Providing all this inspires more lasting love than mere glamour.

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