You know how you approach a task one way and never stop to consider the alternative? Like, maybe you always go to the gym at night, but have never tried an early morning workout. Or maybe you study in the same spot every weekend, just because you always have.

All my life, I’ve been that way about how I like my eggs. I always took them scrambled —not shaken, stirred, or any other funny business. Scrambled eggs were just so easy. They were one of the (very) few things I could rely on for dinner on a crazy school night. I’d just heat up a pan, whisk up a pair and mix them up, salt and eat.

But then, unsurprisingly, I got bored. Instead of reaching for another protein that would require more prep time, I realized that there was a whole world of possibilities in the cage-free crate sitting in the refrigerator. I’d always been wary of cooking eggs any other way for the same reason I avoided meats —I was afraid I’d undercook them.

Fear of food poisoning is a good excuse for laziness.

A fried egg seemed like the natural next step. I reminded myself that there were eleven other chances if I screwed the first one up. The first few tries I fried were very well-done in egg terms. The yolk was solid like a rubber eraser and the edges were brown with butter. And though I felt assured that I wasn’t consuming raw egg, I longed for a little runniness.

This is when things got interesting. I remembered months before when I was in Madrid, and I had an unusually tough time with the Spanish menu. I’d ordered a pasta dish that turned out to be a plate of angel hair, with tomato sauce and a fried egg on top. I was starving and disappointed. The friend I’d been traveling with told me to dip my bread into the yolk, describing the savory taste of the yellow center. But the egg was already cold and it sat in front of me, untouched, like a splat.

Fried Eggs

Photo by Marykate Surette

I realized that dip-ability was what I now craved —I was ready to make my own runny yolk. So I decided to use my instincts. I just had to trust myself, turn down the heat, and plate. The whole time, salmonella hung over my shoulder like a cartoon devil: You better make sure that’s cooked all the way through. And as I poked at the sunny side sitting in the pan, I knew it was.

I slipped the little saucer onto a piece of toast and bit in, tasting the sea salt I’d tossed in the pan, the nuttiness of the multigrain bread and the warmth of the egg whites. Once I got to the middle and the yolk oozed onto the plate, I took a corner of the bread and dragged across the surface. It tasted good.

It may seem ridiculous that it took me twenty years to learn how to fry an egg. That’s probably because it is.