To Serve Man

It’s the time of year when people show up at your house and you have to feed them, so I’ve been using my brief snatches of spare time to browse through cookbooks. One of my favorites (partially because it tends toward the impractical) is the venerable Larousse Gastronomique. One of the fun things about it, at least the old edition: it’s got a fair amount of food named after composers.

Most chef wannabes know about dishes named for Rossini: take just about any foodstuff, cover it with a Madiera sauce, and garnish it with truffles and sautéed foie gras, and voila! you’ve got [foodstuff] Rossini. But there’s more where that came from, and, oddly, most of them seem to be egg dishes. Here’s a few:

Oeufs Auber: Stuffed halved tomatoes with a chicken forcemeat mixed with chopped truffles. Top each tomato with a soft-boiled or poached egg. Make a velouté sauce (white sauce) flavored with tomato paste; at the last minute, add a julienne of truffles that have been cooked in sherry. Cover the eggs with the sauce.

Oeufs Berlioz: Make some oval croustades from Duchesse potato mixture, and brown them in the oven. Fill the croustades with a salpiçon of truffles and mushrooms blended with a thick Madiera sauce. Top each croustade with a soft-boiled or poached egg. Lightly cover the eggs with a sauce Suprême (velouté enriched with cream). Fill the middle of the dish with fried cock’s combs à la Villeroi (poached in court-boullion and dredged in breadcrumbs).

Oeufs Bizet: Butter individual molds and line them with finely chopped pickled tongue and truffles. Break an egg into each mold and poach them in a bain-marie. Cook some artichoke hearts in butter. Unmold the eggs and place one on each artichoke heart. Cover with a Périgueux sauce (demi-glace with chopped truffles). Garnish each egg with a slice of truffle.

Oeufs Meyerbeer: Garnish shirred eggs with grilled lamb kidney. Surround the eggs with a ring of Périgueux sauce.

I love offal, so that last one actually sounds pretty good to me. And the eggs Berlioz might make a fun weekend project the next time I’m in an Asian grocery that carries cock’s combs. But notice: every one of these composers has been dead for a century or more. All the composers who came after—what are they? Chopped liver? Literally? No, we have to fix this.

Eggs Carter: Break an egg into a pan with a multitude of other ingredients, and place on the stove. Continually and simultaneously vary both the temperature and the cooking time. The dish is done when the aggregate intervals of the other ingredients allegorically crush the individuality of the egg.

Eggs Ives: Cook the egg in water, clear water from a mountain lake that a dilettante might try to write a song about. Boil it—hard-boil it—until the yolk is a firm yellow globe—a sun shining on manly hearts with cleaned-out ears. Sissies like a runny yolk, but real beauty—natural beauty—is not to be found in liquidy prettiness—the pale imitations of the passing spectacle must give way to the hard truths of the soul. Emerson once said, “Yonder masterful cuckoo / Crowds every egg out of the nest.”

Eggs Feldman: Extremely soft-boiled. Durations are free.

Eggs Nancarrow: That’s huevos Nancarrow, you stupid gringo!

Eggs Partch: Build your own oven. Calibrate both the thermostat and the timer to non-Western scales of your own invention. Then bake the eggs at 943 degrees for 17,000 minutes, or until the yolks are set. Top each egg with a slice of peyote.

Eggs Rorem: January 23—Dinner at Lenny and Felicia’s with Judy Collins, Edward Albee, the Carters, Virgil, Gore, and Mayor Lindsay, who seemed to have wandered into the wrong apartment. Every course made from eggs, a typical Bernstein obsession that will burn bright and then fade by next week. At the end of dessert, Lenny pulls out a chafing dish and, with Hollywood flair, announces that he will make eggs in the true Parisian style, which he then attempts with American ingredients. When the Vicomtesse showed me how to make eggs, she only used Parisian ingredients. I know these ingredients exist, because I saw them when I was in Paris. I leave early, fleeing into the gray city snow. I must send an apologetic card to Felicia tomorrow. The snow makes one sad; the whole world looks fragile, like an eggshell.

Eggs Schwantner: Crack an egg into a crystal goblet. Run a moistened finger around the rim of the goblet until the egg is vibrating at the same frequency as background radiation from the Big Bang. Serve on a bed of maj7(#11) chords.

Eggs Strauss: Give an egg to a singer. Cover with the orchestra.

Eggs Zorn: Cook as many eggs as you like in as many different ways as you can think of. Serve them all on the same plate. Garnish with matzo.

Eggs Soho the Dog: Do a Google search for “egg recipes.” Pick the funniest one. Link to it. Repeat five times a week.

Who have I forgotten? Leave ’em in the comments, and I’ll post the most appetizing ones.


  1. Eggs Reich — Heat two pans to slightly different temperatures. Start frying two eggs, one in each pan, at the same time. As each egg is done, take it out and put in another one. Breakfast is over when the pans are back in phase.

    Eggs Cage — Heat up your frying pan. Turn it off. Think about what not eating eggs tastes like.

    Eggs Philip Glass — Would it get some eggs for the omelet. And it could get for it is. It could get the frying pan for these sous chefs. And it could be were it is. It could Emeril it could be Emeril it could be very fresh and clean. It could be a pancake

  2. Here’s my favorite recursive Deviled Egg recipe. Take one ostrich, one duck, and one quail egg. Store them refrigerated, tip downward, for at least 24 hours (to insure that the yolks are centered). Hard boil the eggs, each at the appropriate time length, scare with cold water and peel and slice in half lengthways immediately to avoid greying. Remove yolks and mash them until smooth with a bit of mayonnaise, toasted and ground spices (fenugreek, cayenne, mustard, cumin, coriander), one finely chopped small dill pickle and salt to taste. Now place the the quail egg white within the duck egg white, and that within the ostrich egg white, with a healthy layer of the yolk mixture between the white layers and in the quail egg white. Garnish with sweet paprika powder and fresh fenugreek and coriander leaves.

  3. I’ve made Eggs Cage several times and use a recipe similar to Galen’s above. The first few times though, they weren’t very good. It turns out I was using cage-free eggs. Just a word of warning for the novice chef.

  4. Eggs Wuorinen — Music is much more complicated than eggs. It is a typical travesty of the “I Pod” generation to talk about serious music of a problematical character in relation to eggs. Moreover, in the wake of twelve-note composition, eggs have become superfluous. But, if eggs must be made, scramble them vigorously for nineteen minutes.

  5. Eggs Mahler — Obtain 432 eggs. Claim you have a thousand. Cook as many of the eggs as time permits. Invite people over. When they’ve had enough eggs, give them some more eggs. This really only needs to be done about once every twelve years.

  6. Egg Shostakovich

    Fill a frying-pan with oil and heat to at least 20,000C over a low flame; that represents the boiling Stalinist cauldron in which innocent artists were pitilessly destroyed.

    Throw one egg, fragile and defenceless, into the oil and remove when not quite carbonised; the egg represents Shostakovich and the removal before destruction represents the capricious mercy of the Great Leader.

    Turn the cooker off and wait for the oil to cool. Start eating the egg, exclaim “That didn’t taste very good!” and throw the egg back into oil; that represents the artist’s response to just criticism.

  7. I have fought the temptation to contribute, but alas…

    Eggs Antheil — Place a pistol in clear sight on the kitchen counter. Cook eggs using fifteen pressure cookers, while switching on every fan, electric mixer, garbage disposal, blender, and smoke alarm. When done, throw out the lot and cook another set of eggs in a traditional manner, as your mother used to make. Serve with a toast to Hedy Lamarr. Do not switch off your cellphone.

    Eggs Hovhaness — A 67-course banquet, each course consisting of a one-egg omelette, cooked the same way but with slightly varying amounts of asafoetida and blubber.

    Eggs Scelsi — Describe to someone else how they should cook a complete meal from a single egg, while being completely serene and relaxed about it.

  8. Wolff Frittata: Take 12 or 13 or 15 (but not 14) eggs and place in pan. Take 3 or 4 or 5 ingredients from list “B” and mix with eggs. You may double an ingredient and have it count for 2. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, sprinkle 1 or 2 cheeses from list “D” on top, and finish baking for 20 or 35 minutes.

    Eggs Babbitt: Insist that people would find your licorice, peanut butter and pocket lint omelet absolutely delicious if they only had been to advanced culinary school and “understood” it.

    Eggs Dockstader: make better eggs than the top New York chefs. Don’t get hired by any of them because they’re jealous you somehow outcooked them even though you didn’t study at FCI.

    Eggs Cardew: Truffles are for the elitists! I will eat my eggs with a simple accompaniment of fermented beans and fish heads, as Chairman Mao did.

    Partch-ed Cackleberries: If you got any guts from a plunge, put ’em in a coffee can with a lump of axle grease. Heat over a can of sterno until sizzling. Add yer cackleberries and Blue-John and keep stirring ’til it’s thick as goozlum. Dip your punk in it. Don’t share none with ol’ John Hollow Legs unless he got some ink to trade.

  9. Eggs Boulez: Arrange a row of eggs; multiply the first three eggs by the second two eggs. Add butter and whip to a soupy but opaque consistency. By the way, cooking eggs any other way makes you inutile.

    Eggs Champaign-Urbana: Devise an elaborate plan for cooking eggs in a manner that will produce mildly piquant results. (Consider Herbert Brun’s ideas on language.) When finished, name your eggs with an adjective followed by a singular common noun.

  10. Eggs Janacek — take a notebook and notate the sounds that the mother hen utters while you steal two eggs from her nest. Serve with frog’s legs and contemplate the eternal cycle of nature.

  11. The story is set in what appears to be the present time (i.e., 1950), in cold war America. It is told in first-person narrative by a United Nations translator. The story opens at a special session of the UN where three alien emissaries, the pig-like “Kanamit,” are testifying that the purpose of their mission to Earth is “to bring to you the peace and plenty which we ourselves enjoy, and which we have in the past brought to other races throughout the galaxy.” The aliens soon supply Earth with cheap unlimited power, a device that suppresses explosions, and drugs for prolonging life. As a further token of friendship, they allow humans to visit their home planet via ten-year “exchange groups.”

    A friend of the narrator, a UN translator named Gregori, steals one of the Kanamit books, and he and the narrator attempt to translate it, via a basic Kanamit-English dictionary provided by the aliens. After some weeks, they determine that the title is “To Serve Man.” Two weeks later, the narrator returns from a trip to find Gregori distraught. Gregori says that he has translated the first chapter of the book: different sex positions

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