Pacific Grove, California, USA
In 1951, my family boarded a ship to cross from New York City to Israel. My father was twenty-seven. My mother was twenty-five. And I was just shy of my third birthday. Israel, newly formed in 1948, was in desperate need of doctors. My father, an idealistic Zionist, had just completed his medical training.
Not only was Israel short of doctors . . . they were short of practically everything. It was a time of austerity: tzena. Furniture was rationed. So were shoes and food—especially food. Some items, such as fish and bread, were readily available. Others, such as flour, sugar, and oil were extremely scarce.
As a family of three, our food coupon book entitled us to one egg a week. My parents, naturally, reserved the egg for me. And thus began The Weekly Ceremony of the Egg. My mother would carefully scramble, fry, or soft-boil the egg and present it to me. I would stare at the egg as it sat, alone and unadorned, on a small plate. It seemed to stare back at me. "Eat it, Estherke,"my mother would urge. "It's an egg. It's good." I would watch the egg slowly congeal on the plate, my mother's voice growing increasingly desperate, and my stomach growing increasingly queasy. Occasionally I could be persuaded to take a miniscule bite. Generally I was able to outlast my mother.
We remained in Israel for a year. 52 weeks. 52 eggs.
Six decades later, my husband and I live in California. John Steinbeck country. Agricultural land; what one of Steinbeck's characters calls "pastures of heaven." The roadside stands and grocery stores overflow with every kind of food imaginable.
cheddar omelets and chablis