The kid is an artist. He stands behind the flat top grill, flipping eggs.
I am at your quintessential American eatery. It’s raining. But it’s warm inside. And I’m happy here.
The kid wears the emblematic tiny paper hat. He is maybe 25. He cooks my breakfast with thy tender care, treating my bacon like it’s made of spun gold.
Meantime, he is responsible for the meals of 11 other customers. I don’t know how he does it. But he never misses a beat.
He plates my eggs and fatback. The steaming platter arrives in perfect form. My eggs are just right.
And belive me, I am funny about my eggs. The yolk of an over-easy egg should not run, it should merely creep. This kid nailed it. On a four-star rating system, I give the boy 13 stars.
“How’d you learn how to cook like this?” I ask.
He shrugs. “My mama showed me. First thing she taught me was how to make eggs. I learned to cook eggs every single way.”
“I can only think of four ways.”
“Oh, no, there’s more than that.”
He starts counting fingers. “Yep. You can cook them sunny, over easy, over medium, over hard, scrambled, omelets, poached, hard boiled, soft boiled, and you got some other weird ways.”
“You got eggs shirred.”
“Google it, man. You also got basted eggs.”
“What’s a basted egg?”
The young man is now cooking waffles with his right hand, preparing hash browns with his left, and using his feet to stir the grits. He’s a real talent.
“Basted eggs,” he goes on, “are what all the old timers want. It’s how my mom liked her eggs best.”
In his limited spare time, he demonstrates a basted egg.
The cook removes a skillet, tosses a pat of butter into the pan, then cracks an egg, one-handed. Then, he walks to the ice machine and removes a single ice cube. He places the ice cube into the sizzling skillet with the egg, then covers the pan with a cookie sheet.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“It’s the steam,” he explains. “The steam from the melting ice cube cooks the egg so you don’t have to flip it.”
When the egg is finished, he places the culinary treat before me and urges me to eat. It’s delicious. The yolk is just right. The white is not too dry.
“Your mother must be proud of you,” I say.
“Yeah, I think she was.”
The kid lets a few beats go by. Then he speaks as he flips a slab of ham that is roughly the size of a grown man’s thigh.
“She died last year. My mom was a single mother. Kidney problems.”
She raised him and his little brother in a fifth-wheel trailer. Their family had nothing, literally. A lot of people say they grew up with nothing, but this kid really did. And still, his mom made it work.
“She pulled our little camper around the world in her truck. I’ve lived everywhere. Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia.
“After my dad left my mom, she bought a trailer with her savings. She parked at campgrounds. Rent was cheap, and Mom started saving up her money for a house someday.”
His mother got a job cooking at restaurants. She was a short order cook for years. She worked double shifts. Sometimes triple.
“She always told me, she said, ‘Robert, if you know how to cook in a restaurant, you’ll never go hungry.’ So she taught me and my brother to cook.”
“Sounds like good advice.”
The kid smiles.
“When my mom died, she left me and my brother a bank account. We were shocked when we looked into it. My mom had saved her money for so long, she had a fortune. She never spent a dime on herself. She had hundreds of thousands, man.”
“Because of her, I’m gonna be a homeowner for the first time in my life in about a week. You belive it?”
“Congratulations,” I say.
His eyes are bright. His nose is running. His face is lit with a pained smile. I know that smile because I see it in the mirror sometimes.
“How are the eggs?” he asks.
Best eggs I ever had.
Trent - January 7, 2023 1:28 pm
Another gem Sean, thanks! Reckon no one sacrifices like moms. God bless them all. Reading your words in am in a deer stand better than seeing a Herkameyer!
Darren smith - January 7, 2023 1:37 pm
I have been reading your material for several years now and I think you are one exceptional writer. So much so I turned my wife of 34 years on to your daily read. Such a good writer that my wife peed on her self laughing at it in our bed. So thanks
Bj - January 7, 2023 1:44 pm
That’s a real mom!!
Marie - January 7, 2023 2:02 pm
Becky Creighton - January 7, 2023 2:36 pm
Coffee and goose bumps to start my day. Congratulations to this young man on his new home. ♥️
Joyce - January 7, 2023 2:46 pm
My husband and I read your column every morning with our coffee/tea. Thank you for those morning!
Mike Hill - January 7, 2023 3:09 pm
Sean, I would like to know where this kid (man) cooks at! It sounds delicious! Breakfast is my favorite meal any time of the day.
Sean - January 7, 2023 3:13 pm
Lewis Grizzard also wrote about liking his eggs yolks to crawl, not run, across the plate.
Holdeman Brandon - January 7, 2023 3:15 pm
This was beautiful, Sean. as most of yours are.. in my humble opinion. Thanks for helping me keep my feet on the ground, and my eyes in the stars, simultaneously, & figuratively.
Debbie g - January 8, 2023 7:13 am
David - January 7, 2023 3:28 pm
Another beautiful story! Y’all have a good day!
Patricia Gibson - January 7, 2023 3:41 pm
Once again a story I needed to hear!! God bless you and this young man!❤️❤️
Jerry Steiner - January 7, 2023 3:43 pm
I am the egg fryer in our family and had never heard of basted eggs. I promptly tried it and liked it well enough to make another! Thanks Sean.
Max - January 8, 2023 2:26 am
Put a glass lid over the pan while the cook. Holds in the steam.
Suellen - January 7, 2023 3:45 pm
Here’s to Mama’s everywhere that do whatever it takes for their children.
Kris Andersen - January 7, 2023 4:00 pm
I love your stories. Thank you for writing them.
mccutchen52 - January 7, 2023 4:05 pm
Moms always try to save a little for their kids. No matter how small or large she will try to leave something behind because most of them feel like they didn’t do enough.
Nancy - January 7, 2023 4:13 pm
Sean, when I tell my friends about you, I always tell them, they are going to cry. Every day, without fail, you make me cry. You paint such vivid pictures with the words from your heart.
I am so looking forward to seeing you at the Springer in Columbus, GA on February 18. Thank you for helping Mercy Med.
Molly - January 7, 2023 4:37 pm
Ditto, Nancy. Dammit, Sean!
Stacey Wallace - January 7, 2023 4:37 pm
Thanks for such a sweet story, Sean. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.
Stephanie - January 7, 2023 5:10 pm
Excellent story. I wish I had the nerve to talk with people as openly as you do. I know this is how you find your stories. Thank you for sharing.
Bob - January 7, 2023 5:19 pm
Another terrific story, Sean. I have not heard of this method for basted eggs. My mother did them by flipping the bacon grease onto the eggs.
Anita L McMahon - January 7, 2023 7:29 pm
Bob, that’s exactly how my Mom made our basted eggs.
Suellen - January 8, 2023 12:46 am
That’s exactly what I was thinking. How my Grandma made them, how my Mom made them, and now how I make them.
john swetnam - January 7, 2023 5:29 pm
print large enough to see would be so lovely — it won’t waste any ink or use any more paper
Karen Snyder - January 8, 2023 4:28 am
John, if you’re reading on a computer, are you aware you can enlarge what appears on your screen by holding down the control key and simultaneously tapping the + key? Hoping that may be helpful.
kingswaydaughter - January 7, 2023 5:37 pm
I too had a best mom in the world and sacrificed much for her kids. She took a lot of mental abuse from my dad, but she was “the one” who raised us four kids. She was always there for us no matter what. She got ALS at 56 and went home to be with the Lord at 58. She raised 4 wonderful kids – one later got cancer and is with her now. I have a top 10 list for Heaven – she is #2 right after I see Jesus.
Heather Miller - January 7, 2023 5:52 pm
Many people are very, very determined to make something out of nothing for their children. This mom did just that, in addition to teaching her boys how to sustain themselves and continue ion, hopefully teaching their children the same. Thanks for this story. It was an “each one teach one” lesson for us all. Happy blessed New Year to you, Sean.
Danny - January 7, 2023 6:12 pm
This story brings me of my time on a trip to Chicago a few years back. Two older friends of mine, and I, went to a breakfast place in downtown Chi-town. Waiter asks me how I like my eggs. I told him “like my Mom makes ’em.” The oldest of my friends looks at me, shakes his head, and mutters some words I cannot include in this written comment. I’m a retired middle school teacher so I have been pretty good at wisecracks. Anyway, my Mom always had that fried, crispy edges and slightly runny egg yolks. It didn’t require a specific name for the style; just “the way my Mom makes ’em.
Keep up the good storytelling. Starts my day off with good perspective.
Julia - January 7, 2023 6:17 pm
I cannot quit crying…
Thank you Sean…
Cheryl McWilliams - January 7, 2023 7:41 pm
Listen, I’m telling you, the Waffle House has a million stories. The people who work there are usually worthy of a couple of chapters in the Book of Life. I love this. I can truly say, when we eat there, we always leave our best tip.
Angela - January 7, 2023 8:03 pm
I love the poetry and artistry of your portrayal of everyday people and their lives which create a daily masterpiece❤️
ELIZABETH PRINCE - January 7, 2023 8:26 pm
Another great story with a lot of heart!
William J Webb - January 7, 2023 8:32 pm
Sean, you are the envy of me and countless others. Your eyes and ears witness what most can only imagine. And you have a job that not only allows it but puts all these stories in front of you. The only other job I can think of that brings forth these stories is a over the road trucker. I’m sure there are more. Well, there is Kid Rock, but he has a different Waffle House story.
Blessed are the ones who are witnessing life’s stories at every turn, every day.
MAM - January 7, 2023 10:15 pm
I like my eggs the way “Mom” (me) makes them, too—crispy edges and crawling egg yolk. A sweet story about a young man who will do find in life, thanks to his Mom. I do love your stories, Sean. Always easy to “see” and enjoy or cry about.
Nancy Grinstead - January 10, 2023 4:56 pm
Daph - January 7, 2023 10:19 pm
You are an amazing writer
Melissa Brown - January 7, 2023 10:51 pm
I just love your writing style. You put such feeling in your stories. God Bless You !
Cindy Carrington - January 8, 2023 1:05 am
You write a lot about kidney disease. People who have kidney disease. People who are dying of kidney disease and people who have died of kidney disease. Do you know someone with kidney disease? My daughter has kidney disease. She is having dialysis now and has been on the transplant list for two years. We are praying for a matching donor.
Carol from GA - January 9, 2023 7:25 pm
I’m praying too Cindy that your beautiful daughter receives a kidney transplant any day now! Xoxo Carol
Ann Boutwell - January 8, 2023 1:59 am
I think my husband & I saw this young man cooking at a WH in Waynesville,NC several years back. He looked like he was 15 years old. He made cooking look like an art and he was the master! With such ease & grace he handled multiple orders & never missed a beat. He was a joy to watch! I told my husband if I could I’d send him to culinary school. If it’s not the same young man, he must have a twin! Great story, Sean! It’s wonderful how you recognize & honor ordinary people who are really extraordinary!
Joyce Gingrich - January 8, 2023 2:04 am
And again…again…you have led me to tears! As I read this to my husband, I had to stop several times to catch my breath…please don’t ever say again that you had to get a GED or you didn’t finish school or you went to college late…you are gifted, pure and simple…and I know that for a fact! I was an educator for 40 years, and I only wish I was still teaching 8th grade language arts because I would be using your writings as an example of word choice, painting a picture with words, making the reader feel as if they are with you…and on and on! Bless you Sean…Happy New Year! Thank you for making my day, every day!
Max - January 8, 2023 2:27 am
Got to be a Waffle House. Lord I wish we had one in Montana. Just for the grits.
BA Beckett - January 8, 2023 5:57 am
Loved hearing you with Three on A String tonight.
mikec4193 - January 8, 2023 10:53 am
Worked in several restaurants back in the day…more chain places but still those words bring me back to that time in my life…really really young and learning the ways of the world as you go along…I remember the paper hats too….
Thanks for bringing memories from 40 plus years ago back to the surface…
You make me smile Sean…
Ruth - January 8, 2023 1:50 pm
Again the ordinary becomes extraordinary as good food really is a creative process. And just love a good breakfast, makes me want to run to the nearest Waffle house. Thank you for recognizing this young man and his skill.