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Utterly eggcentric behaviour

Why the Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne has put the kibosh on my breakfast plans.

Vijay Verghese/ Editor

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VijayTHE EARTH FINALLY MOVED FOR ME. It was 7.10am on Saturday 19 September, 2009. And there I was, insouciantly au naturel, face flushed, heart racing, on the Island of the Gods. Who says fifty-something means one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel? I listened to birdsong, watched the swimming pool heave, the ground shake, and the windows rattle. It was 5.8 on the Richter scale the BBC later reported. And it was time to get some clothes on. I showered in ten seconds and raced out; not exactly poetry in motion, but efficiently survivalist, in a bumbling fifty-something way. The blonde hair on the deck chair was the only reminder of her. She was long gone now. Scooting through the trees. I didn’t even have a picture, but there would be other opportunities to observe lion-tailed macaques in Bali.

I was alive. Hallelujah. And it was time for breakfast. The Bible rightly says, “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” Thus it was I headed for my sacred tryst with runny underdone eggs, scrambled to perfection. And on this, the sixth day, it was served, and I saw that it was good. Not scrambled eggs this time but exquisitely done Eggs Benedict, dripping with hollandaise sauce, on a lush bed of spinach and Canadian ham all bursting with the goodness of what the West would call free-range, barn-laid, organic eggs – usually with a price tag to rival a Mercedes E-Class.

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In local parlance it’s simply “local eggs”. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Hens in Bali, India, and much of Asia don’t have any other option than to dodge passing cars and forage free range. They don’t do Alaska cruises and battery-fed buffets in climate-controlled environs perusing the latest farm-feed menus, driving egg prices ever higher.

Why is it hotel chefs, with more decorations than General Douglas MacArthur, don't know how to cook scrambled eggs?

I had switched to Eggs Benedict today. Not only because the resort cooked them to perfection but because I had just had an epiphany. Hotels simply do not know how to cook scrambled eggs. Why can’t hotel chefs – with more titles and decorations than General Douglas MacArthur – make decent huevos? This remains one of the enduring mysteries of modern travel.

The elite Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne has been around since 1893, churning out brilliant hoteliers, administrators, oenologists; and chefs in starched aprons and reassuringly stiff white caps like well done blancmange, strongly hinting at a certain culinary pedigree. I do think a hundred years is long enough to teach anyone how to whisk a spatula.

In Singapore I got dour looks from a sourpuss chef who pointed towards the buffet table. “Scrumble over there,” he sniffed. The readymade “scrumble” wasn’t bad at all. But I wanted mine underdone with tomatoes, mushrooms, chillies and ham. With a few honourable exceptions, at almost all of the hotels where I have sampled breakfast, the scrambled egg exercise invariably resulted in an omelette. All these omelettes look the same, taste the same and they have one other thing in common. They are definitely not scrambled egg.

In Bangkok I watched as the chef put the eggs on the fire and then wandered off to have a chat with his friends. By the time he returned my scrambled egg was a pancake, Frisbee-hard. Nowadays I direct the breakfast chefs firmly and stand there glowering at every move. “Now, now,” I holler, “take it off the fire.”

The duty-free selection was not bad at all but there was no DVT. It's all the rage on long haul economy and is better than Ketamine

The following week on my flight to Shanghai the airhostess came up and smiled sweetly, “K 4 coffee?” “No, K for kangaroo, C for coffee. Actually I’d care for some Japanese green tea.” “My college will get it for you?” “Your college?” “Yes. And would you like scrambled eggs with sausage?” I sighed. I’d rather knock out all my teeth with a hot iron than eat airline eggs. That’s an entirely different level of gastronomic pain and endurance. Her colleague swiftly produced my green tea and SMILED. I nearly had a heart attack.

The duty-free selection was not bad at all but there was no DVT. I’ve always wanted one – preferably from SONY. It’s all the rage on long-haul economy class and apparently works better than Ambien and Ketamine combined. Best of all, deep vein thrombosis requires no batteries. I later watched the inflight video with interest. Some spoiled sport has packed it with tips to avoid getting DVT. First you need to find a tall oak tree to lean against. Then you proceed to stretch out and pummel the hell out of your neighbours as you swing your arms about.

It was good to be back in Hong Kong. I broke open two barn-laid eggs, beat them, dropped in some butter on the skillet and added a dash of chilli and herbs. Let nothing separate a man from good scrambled eggs. Forget the blonds. I’ll take a good breakfast any day.

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