scrambled eggs in zsir


Kereszt Anyu is standing at the stove in her flowered apron, stirring an old ceramic bowl full of eggs with a fork. She picks up the old worn, wooden spoon, sticks it into a can, and with a quick twist, it’s heaping with pale tan, rendered pork lard. The lard is soft and beginning to melt as she bangs the spoon against the side of the pan. Picking up the bowl, she slides the translucent yellow liquid, gently into the melting golden dollop of zsir, swirling around in the pan, while stirring the eggs briskly to break up the cooked pieces. She then cuts thick slices of white bread, two fingers worth, and lays them into the toaster that falls apart on both sides. The bread is dense and soft, while at the same time, strong enough to support the pile of scrambled eggs, now glistening with drippings, ready to eat. I marvel at how her eggs never get dry, they never get hard, they stay soft and moist, no matter how long they sit on your plate. Then, just before she dishes all the eggs that slice of toast can hold, she deftly, spins the bread from the toaster onto her palm, and with one flick of her right hand, slathers it with deep golden butter, while enroute to the plate.

The few farm hands are beginning to trickle in. As they do, she puts a plate with a slab of bread and eggs in front of each one as they sit down. I have the best spot at the table, it’s near her, the window, and the toaster. She moves away toward the old beat up aluminum pot on the stove where the coffee is cooking. She strains the liquid into cups and puts them on the table too. The light from the window is streaming right onto me and my plate. My pile of eggs, though not as big as the workers, begin to shimmer in the sunshine streaming through the large window facing east.

I can hear Nagyi in the next room, she is pushing down the pickles in the barrel. I can hear the squooshing, gurgling sound, as each push submerges the gherkins that grow outside. They are buoyant, and no amount of pushing them down will make them stay under. Her hands are green and cracked from the vinegar and dye in the brine that gurgles up around her arms every day.
Kereszt Anu, calls her. “Nagyi!, Gyere!, kész a reggelid”. She calls back, “Yo”! I wait for her to come in, shuffling a little, then sitting across from me at the table. She is wearing a wrap around apron too, designed like a pinafore with contrasting binding. Hers is a subdued dark blue. I love this old woman. Her face is hardly wrinkled, pale grey/blue eyes don’t wander around, just stay focused on what’s ahead of her. Her gray hair is tied up in a bun, a few strands loose around her ears. She smiles. She is quiet. So very quiet, except when she giggles a little if something amuses her. She giggles with her mouth closed. Her body barely showing the sound moving through her. She is completely without any desire for attention, unlike the drama sisters, one of whom married her son.

I sit quietly and drink my coffee, (I’m allowed to, even though I’m a kid. I drink wine and beer too). Aunt Juliska’s voice is like music, stormy music, a symphony of sound. The emotion, the highs and lows, every narrative charged with do or die drama, who did what to whom, with emphatic gestures illustrating, in full blown maxi vision mind you, just how closely these incidents are driving her to the edge. Nagyi’s murmurs and occasional giggles, punctuate my Auntie’s one way conversation. I love my language, so beautiful, so dramatic, so alive! But I hear it so seldom.

Notes & translations:
zsir: animal lard, usually pork
Kereszt Anyu: God Mother
Nagyi: Affectionate term for Grandmother
Nagyi!, Gyere!, kész a reggelid” : Grandma, your breakfast is ready
Yo : Good

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