by Joel Risberg

Somewhere midway through each morning's "Captain Kangaroo" ritual before kindergarten, Mom would come in to take my breakfast order. Without turning my head away from Grandfather Clock and Mr. Green Jeans, I'd repeat the verse:

"Egg-In-A-Frame with extra toast, only with butter, glass of water with ice, please."

A quick nod to the back of my head, and Mom would turn away singing her own version of the verse to the tune of "Camptown Ladies."

"Egg-In-A-Frame with extra toast, doo-dah, doo-dah."

After ten kids (I'm the youngest) and more than twenty years of cooking for her family, you'd think Mom would have soured on the custom breakfasts. "Make it yourself," I'd probably say in her situation. "You know how to pour milk on cereal." More often than not, though, I got exactly the kind of breakfast I wanted -- which was usually the fabled egg and bread combination we called Egg-In-A-Frame.

Mom says she's not sure where she got the idea for an egg cooked in a hole cut from buttered bread, though it's definitely known outside our family. She says she learned it sometime after my birth because none of my siblings had been treated to them. One theory is that it came from "Sesame Street" since at least one person outside our family who remembered eating it called them "Cookie Monster Eggs."

The origin of Egg-in-a-Frame

By elementary school, I'd learned to make a messier version of the Egg-In-A-Frame myself -- with a lot of help from Mom. Of course there are subtleties to even the simplest recipe, and I'm still working them out for myself. The finished product is definitely worth the extra effort over scrambled or sunny-side-up eggs, though. There's just something about the way the egg soaks into the buttered bread that starts the mouth watering. And if there's an unappealing dish in this world that involves copious amounts of butter, I certainly haven't heard of it. Want to try it yourself?

the recipe


  • Warning: This meal contains large amounts of Flavor, an ingredient of increasing rarity in our modern diet.
  • 2 slices of plain white or wheat toast (Nothing fancy, and absolutely no poppy seeds or other unnecessary ingredients. Rule of thumb: If the loaf is smaller than 15 inches long, you've purchased some sort of inappropriate gourmet bread. Try again.)
  • Butter or margarine (As always, real butter can't be beat. Pamper yourself.)
  • 1 egg (Yes, a real egg. No "EggProduct Egg-like substitute" please.)


Butter both sides of one of the slices of bread (yes, this means you'll have butter all over the palm of your hand if you do it correctly) and put the other in the toaster without pressing the lever, which comes later. Put a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and put a glop of butter in it. If that's not specific enough, settle for a teaspoon. While the pan heats, choose a small glass from your cupboard -- preferably one with a diameter of two to three inches -- and use the open end of the glass to cut a hole from the center of the bread. This should leave you with a buttered frame and a buttered piece of bread suitable for dunking in the yolk if you're so inclined. Once the pan is hot, put the frame and cutout side-by-side in the pan and carefully crack an egg into the hole in the frame. It will tend to run under the bread at first and spread out a bit, but this is good. Heat on one side until the yolk and white are hardened to your preference, then carefully turn over both frame and cutout. Press down the toast lever at this point. Turn off the heat and let it cook for 30 seconds or so, then slide the frame/egg and cutout onto a plate. Butter your toast and experiment with dunking the cutout in the yolk (assuming you didn't cook it until hardened).

Eating your Egg-In-A-Frame:

After the dunking phase is complete, cut out the bulk of the egg and lay it on the extra piece of toast to make a mini-sandwich. Finally, pick up the frame and eat the best part with your hands. You might want to employ a moist towelette at this point. One more thing -- You're under moral obligation to sing this song at least once before, during, or upon completion of the Egg-In-a-Frame ritual: "Egg-In-A-Frame with extra toast, doo-dah, doo-dah."

back to the kitchen - back to american folk

October 18, 1997