“Spit in the Eye”
“Hole in the Middle”
“Surprise Egg” (“Surprised Egg”)
“Toad in the Hole!” (“Toad-n-holes”)
“Guy Kibbee Eggs”
My great Aunt Phil cooked the food that was the heart of my family and my childhood. When my young mother married my father and became part of the family, Aunt Phil taught her to make “Egg-in-a-Hole.” On very special days when I was little, my mother would make this for me. I loved watching her use a small juice glass to cut a round hole in the bread. Then into the frying pan the bread and circle cut-out would go, where they would brown in melting butter. Finally, she’d crack the egg-shell, dropping the yolk into the bread hole- an act infused with a certain amount of drama. It wasn’t until I saw Olympia Dukakis make this same dish in Moonstruck, that it occurred to me that anyone else in the world made this besides my mother.
When I recently posted an “Egg-in-a-Hole” photo on my Foodie Fatale Facebook page, I learned just how many people grew up with the same dish. I was delighted by the flurry of comments it provoked and learned just how many different appellations it has.
One common refrain: we all thought our families invented it. Emily Schrader shared: “My dad made it and he called it “Eggs Schra-der-o” (which led me to believe he invented it!)”
Aimee Fitzpatrick Martin‘s Polish grandmother Estelle “A great cook and a great lady”) started making the dish after she saw the actor Guy Kibbee make them for Shirley Temple in the 1935 film Mary Jane’s Pa. Aimee remembers “She called it “Guy Kibbee Eggs“ ever after. Her Polish mother had never made it, so she gave it her own name!!” New York writer Peter Cherches also affectionately describes the “Guy Kibbee Eggs” his mother made, inspired by the same film.
Los Angeles-based trainer Cathy Nadell remembers well the breakfasts her grandmother made for her when she was growing up in New York:
My grandmother used to make her “Hole-in-the-Middles” for us when we were kids! We definitely thought she invented this and we were the only kids who ate these… She was the best, and those breakfasts were very special for all of us.. ( I always thought it was a Jewish thing).It’s now become a family tradition and my mom makes them for all the grandchildren. I have to say grandma Shirley’s were the best, and I don’t think anyone will ever make the Hole-in-the-Middle as good or as memorable as she did… She poured her love for us into that recipe..
Connie Tomeo Porto learned to make “Surprise Eggs” from her mother-in-law Gloria in Ozone Park, New York: “I used to make this for my two children when they were young. . . .The kids loved it because of the name and would get all excited when I made them.”
“Hole in the Middles” were a “huge part” of Lauren Dembo Menis’ childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa. And she makes them for her own children Atlanta, Georgia. “It reminds me of my mom and my house in Glenhazel and being a little girl in a big, exciting world, taking hole in the middle for granted. I mean, who didn’t eat “Hole-in-the-Middle” for breakfast?”
Sag Harbor resident Dawn Watson writes the popular blog Hamptons Party Girl, where I often enjoy reading about her sophisticated food tastings. But it wasn’t always so:
Growing up in the farmlands of Indiana, there wasn’t much in the realm of the exotic. “Floating Islands” certainly weren’t made from gastronomically adventurous ingredients but they were definitely more fun than my usual fare. And then there was the name, which brought to mind grass skirts and hula dancing. This simple egg and bread dish transported the imaginative child that I was to faraway places, where Don Ho sang of ‘Tiny Bubbles’ and everyone drank fruity concoctions with umbrellas in them.
As is often the case, these stories are all inextricably tied to memories and feelings. And this is what I love about food- about eating, writing and talking about it. In doing so, we commune with our own histories. The great and inspiring writer Betty Fussell put it best when she said:
“We eat the world to know it, and ourselves.”