Eggs in Purgatory

Home videos show my brother Jason and me marching around the house as children, singing at the top of our lungs.

Jason was always up for my antics. One day after Sunday School, we built Noah’s Arc out of laundry baskets. On another day, we luged down a hill of pillows with pillows taped to our backs while watching the winter Olympics. We often performed self-written plays for my parents, with me as the lead and Jason as back up. We were an inseparable duo: Jason always followed in my stead, and I watched out for him when we encountered big sets of stairs or muddy patches of grass.

In my first memory, though, I am biting my brother.

My family was driving somewhere in our Dodge Caravan and Jason was in his car seat. He was maybe 1 year old and I was a feisty 4 years old, uncertain about having someone else to share the limelight with in our household. Jason was a chill kid, happy to sing to himself, play his harmonica and eat. He slept long hours and rarely cried. I, on the other hand, was precocious and full of energy. I liked to make crafts and I tended to yell when I needed things.

I vividly remember looking at Jason and feeling a surge of annoyance mixed with wonderment. So I leaned over and, before I could think about it, I placed my mouth on his upper arm and bit down, hard.

I remember a startled silence, followed by Jason’s scream. My mom’s shocked face, peering over the front seat. My dad pulling over the car to reprimand me. Jason’s tiny eyes, staring up at me in confusion. My little brain working overtime to figure out what I’d done and why.


20 years later, Jason and I sat on a beach in Barcelona, sharing a bottle of wine in the darkness, waves lapping at the sand 10 feet in front of us. We were halfway through a month-long backpacking trip in Europe. I’d already traveled around the globe once before in an attempt to understand why the pressures of adulthood made me feel flat. Jason, however, was at the cusp of adulthood when we took this trip; he wondered what to do next and was confused about who to be. Our trip was meant to show him that the world is big, that options are infinite, that people are the same in most places. I was meant to be the tour guide, the one who showed him the things I had yet to figure out myself.

In this way, it was the same as it always was for us: I watched out for him at every turn and he followed me anywhere, across bridges and onto trains. And yet in so many ways, this trip was different. In Europe, Jason taught me to soften into experiences. He made decisions about where we should go and what we should eat and what we would see. His observations about art and people astounded me. And this time I could see that maybe in his hesitation to decide about what he wanted to do with his life, he’d already learned something that the rest of us have been missing all along: there is no finish line and we never actually get “there.” So we’d best enjoy the ride.

Eggs in Purgatory

Or “Simple Backpacker’s Food.” Serves 2.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (store-bought is fine, but go for something fancy with extra herbs and garlic)
  • 1/2 baguette or 2 large pitas
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Optional: herbs (oregano, basil, thyme)

Preheat oven to broil. In a castiron skillet (or another oven-safe pan), saute onion with a dash of olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add the tomato sauce to make a layer about 1.5 inches deep (you may not need the whole jar — I only used 3/4 of mine). Carve out four valleys in the sauce and crack an egg into each open spot, then slide the pan into the oven.

Crusty bread is the best for dipping with a recipe like this, so grab a baguette or pita and cut them into chinks, then slide those into the oven, too.

Watch your oven closely, as the cook time really depends on your particular oven. You should remove the pan from the oven when the eggs are set (the clear parts will turn white; the yolk will turn orange and look more solid). That took 6 minutes in my oven, and my pita pieces only needed 2 minutes in the oven before they were toasted nicely.

Once it’s done, garnish with parmesan cheese and any dried herbs you have on hand (oregano, basil or thyme work well). To serve, scoop two eggs into a bowl with the surrounding sauce and cheese. Then spoon that mixture onto a baguette or scoop up the sauce with pita, and enjoy!

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