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Articles / Your Favorite Foods Are Often Just Those Made by Your Favorite People

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Your Favorite Foods Are Often Just Those Made by Your Favorite People

Published April 2, 2024

For me, an egg in the hole is the Holy Grail

My birthday dinner, circa sometime in the 80s. Photo courtesy Kate Bittman

What makes a food special, what turns a simple dish into a memory? Why do some dishes stand out so much more than others? (Aside from how good or bad they are, of course.) In many cases, it’s because there are certain meals, ingredients even, that we always associate with another person.

My sister, Emma, always asked for my dad’s cod and crispy potatoes, published in his very first book, Fish. For birthdays, I always requested steamed lobster and artichokes (see above — with homemade French fries, naturally), with a mini glass bowl full of melted butter on the side (wow — what a life) — also made by my dad. The Silver Palate Cookbook will always remind my husband, Nick, of his mom, who made him and his dad and siblings garlicky hummus and vegetarian chili and Chicken Marbella often enough for those things to become core memories. The first time I really bonded with one of my best friends, she made me tuna noodle casserole, notably with wagon wheel pasta — both the casserole and the pasta shape will forever be associated in my mind with Heidi. And I will never forget the wonderful smell of my grandma’s chicken noodle soup, despite an incredibly complicated relationship. 

Emma’s Fish, from the upcoming Kids Cook Everything, out this fall! Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani

I could easily go on for pages — that’s how many foods I associate with other people. It’s just one of the ways we hold our beloveds close. But I’ll just share one more memory: my dad making me breakfast as a kid. Frequently, I’d ask for an egg in the hole (a/k/a eggs in a nest, Howdy Doody eggs, bullseye eggs). I liked the whole thing, but my favorite part was the circle that my dad would punch out of the bread with a vitamin jar lid to create the hole, the egg’s tidy little home. He always managed to get it extra buttery with fantastically crisp edges, perfect for mopping up the yolk, which he always perfected.

Photo: Aya Brackett

This is not a new or groundbreaking dish, of course. But it’s warming and easy, and is good for dinner, too, to get you through that night when the thought of cooking makes you want to whine your way into oblivion. The egg in the hole was one of my go-tos on the long haul of early Covid, but I burned out a bit and now I lean towards pasta — a super simple tomato sauce or butter and cheese.

I’m ready to bring back the egg in the hole, though, my Holy Grail, my dad dish. And I urge you to follow my lead. What you need: bread, eggs, oil or butter (or you can spread mayo over the bread on both sides, which makes it extra salty and flavorful), salt, pepper. Some Parmesan sprinkled over the top is nice. And if you want to make a bunch at a time, do them on a baking sheet — 400°F for 8-10 minutes should do it, but check periodically so you don’t get hard-cooked eggs (full disclosure: I have yet to succeed here); you can also use a griddle, as seen above — this is a great one. The meal might not have core memories for you, but it’ll serve you well anyway.