January and February really are the hardest months of the year. The celebratory mood that the Christmas holidays carry has long left, leaving some fantastic memories and a bit of homesickness. The harsh reality of winter is quick to settle in once again. My long and expensive daily commute to work takes place in the dark hours of the day. Take a walk means dealing with cold, chilly winds. My dissertation deadline is dangerously close, yet the dissertation itself is far from done. Work can sometimes be so intense that you can never quite unplug, not after 5pm and not at weekends. The symptoms of a classic winter cold take most of your energies away. Top it all off with 3 days without heating and hot water in the house, and I’m pretty much done. And yet, yet not all is lost. Every morning, daylight starts a couple of minutes earlier and every evening, it ends a couple of minutes later. For the first time in months, I glimpse the shape of sheep grazing at dawn from my morning train. I am pleasantly surprised by how much I can progress in my dissertation by putting in just a little effort. Despite the pressure, every morning, when I enter the office, I’m truly happy. The funny faces and smiles my baby niece pulls on Skype make me forget a nasty cold. As for the boiler, all those years of rudimentary family camping have all paid off as I breezed through three 6am hair-and-body wash (I can’t really call them showers…) involving a kettle, a big green plastic jug and 15°C in the house.
Not to forget the one-off nice things that put the smile on your face. Like spending a few days in Madrid. Or my manager telling me I’m “one of the stars of the team” (I’m still beaming for this one…). Or finding out that my citrus and spice shortbread won the taste prize at yesterday’s charity bake sale at work, and sold out faster than any other bake on sale. Or these eggs, straight from my childhood and so comforting. It’s the I-can’t-be-bothered version of egg and soldiers. My mum would make it for my sister and me when she was at a loss as to what give us for dinner, and there were some eggs left in the fridge. I always had the feeling she felt a bit apologetic for serving up these, but then she always has been when it comes to the food she makes. In any case, she didn’t need to be, because these eggs are delicious. The other day I asked my mum where this recipe comes from. I had checked in our trusted family cookbook, La Cucina Triestina, and funnily enough the recipe for uova alla coque was non other than egg and soldiers. So I was still in the dark about the torn up bread mixed with the egg. Mum said that she used to eat it as a child so I’ll have to ask Grandma next time I see her. Ah, and writing this just reminded me of the time I was at my grandparents’ house and asked for “un uovo alla coque” for dinner. Grandma made them for me but served them in a bowl instead of a mug, which was what I was used to. It felt so wrong, I even contemplated telling her she used the wrong type of container, but then I thought better of it (it’s a truth universally acknowledged that YOU DO NOT MESS WITH GRANDMA) and just ate the egg.
Tear the bread up in small pieces and put them in the mugs. The quantities of bread are a bit vague, but you can get an idea by looking at the pictures above. Cook the eggs in boiling water so 3 minutes. Use a spoon to ease them in and out of the water, being careful not to break them. As soon as they’re out, lightly crack them at the top and start peeling the shell off in small pieces. When you have a hole that is just big enough to easily slide a teaspoon inside, do just that and empty the eggs inside the mugs. Make sure to scrape the harder egg white on the inside walls of the shells. Salt, pepper and pour some olive oil. Stir and eat immediately.