My former roommate Ann once told me that her childhood comfort food was a fried egg sandwich. “My mom would make them for me with toast that was a little burned, and with a lot of salt,” she said.
“No cheese?” I asked.
“No cheese,” she said. “Just an egg and toast.”
It took me several years and a stint working as a grill cook to value the egg sandwich the way Ann did, but now that it’s in my repertoire as a Total Comfort Food, it’s there for good. I too prefer bread that’s slightly burned. (Note: Not just in the case of egg sandwiches, but always.) When I break my egg into the spitting pan, I also break the yolk. Unlike Ann’s mom, I consider cheese a necessity to any fried egg sandwich; my cheese of choice is pepper jack, covered with several heavy shakes of black pepper. Optional are bacon (though I rarely add bacon if I’m making this sandwich at home) or a few dashes of jalapeno Tabasco sauce.
The fried egg sandwich is a perfect comfort food for several reasons. It’s warm, so it’s ideal on cool fall or winter days. It’s a little bit greasy, a little bit heavy, but not remorsefully so — just solid enough that it makes a complete meal without giving one post-consumption gut rot. It’s hella simple to prepare and can consequently be enjoyed if one has eight minutes, a frying pan, a spatula, and a toaster. And it’s relatively texturally complex: the gooeyness of the cheese and the chewiness of the egg are pleasantly offset by the crunch of the browned bread (or bagel, or English muffin). Finally, the sandwich is endlessly adaptable: you can add or subtract cheese; you can scramble your egg or hard fry it; you can add whatever spice or seasoning you wish; you can take your pick of breads. You can even add a spread, if you wish, though I’ve never gone that far.
Yes, the fried egg sandwich is an old friend of mine — one established late in my culinary life, but, like the best friends, one steady and enduring.