Julia Hamilton

A brief history of eggs with raisins

Julia Hamilton
A brief history of eggs with raisins

My brothers and I grew up eating something we called “eggs with raisins.” It’s better than it sounds.

Mom would made it for breakfast by whisking up an eggy, almost pancake-like batter, pouring it to cover the bottom of a sizzling skillet, sprinkling raisins over the top, and finally tearing it into chunks with a spatula. She set it on the table with a torn-open bag of powdered sugar, which we children used to coat each piece with as much dusty sweetness as our little hearts desired. It was the delight of lazy Saturdays, as classic to our family as waffles or pancakes.

We only found out much later that it was a descendant of kaiserschmarrn, a dish Mom had enjoyed several times at an American couple’s home in Vienna. At the time, she was doing missionary work for three years in the part of Yugoslavia that is now Croatia. They wrote down the recipe for her, which she brought home, adapted to an American mother of four’s busy mornings, and renamed eggs with raisins.

Well, she says renamed. I maintain that she just forgot the original title.

For years, eating Mom’s recipe was my only exposure to kaiserschmarrn, until March of last year, when I was studying in France and would spend an evening every few weeks or so in the tiny dorm kitchens of my European exchange buds. One or two of us would make a characteristic meal or dish from our respective countries, and we ended up having a kaiserschmarrn night. Romana, from Munich, had her grand-aunt’s hand-written German recipe, and we all pitched in to hand-whip the egg whites as we drank too much wine, listened to German and Austrian folk music, and totally monopolized the cramped kitchen that was otherwise supposed to remain available for the entire floor. It turned out wonderfully.

Once, with the help of Google Translate, I tried to remake Romana’s grand-aunt’s recipe. It was this last Thursday, and I was sure that all my European adventures and pastry training would help me improve on Mom’s old eggs with raisins. I was wrong. Alone in the kitchen, I couldn’t get the egg whites folded in just right, the edges crispy enough, or the middle as light and fluffy as I wanted. It made me think of one morning a while after the kaiserschmarrn night in France, when I had “real” kaiserschmarrn at the Viennese Café Landtmann. I was alone that time too, in a lavish dining room where I dusted the beautiful pastry bits with powdered sugar, dunked them in applesauce and plum compote, and ended up thinking that it just wasn’t as good as what I’ve already had, in humbler kitchens with happier people.

Next time, then, I’ll just stick to eggs with raisins, and I’ll find some people to share it with. Originally, I thought I’d end up slapping a recipe on this post, but honestly, y’all just go make your mom’s pancakes, or your dad’s biscuits, or your big brother’s grits, or whatever beloved lazy morning memory keeps popping up again and again in your own personal history.

Just don’t go and try to improve the original recipe.