I have a fond memory from early childhood. I am standing on a chair beside my Dad, who is at the stove on a Sunday morning, cooking fried eggs for me the way his mother used to cook them for him.
I am maybe four or five years old. I am watching from a safe distance on the chair, as he tips the frying pan and spoons puddles of hot bacon grease over the soft yokes. The heat of the grease sputters and turns the eggs’ whites bubbly and crisp. The yolk gets cooked to perfection from this bacon fat basting.
“You don’t need to flip them and risk breaking the yolks,” he explains. The longer the grease is spooned over the yolk, the harder the yolk becomes. It’s easy to see the changing yoke colour as it cooks with each pass of the spoon.
He likes his runny. I like mine firm. When they are done to each of our desires, he serves them out, shiny with fat. Slices of crisp bacon are on the side. It tastes wonderful.
I was thinking about eggs like this on a recent Sunday morning. I was spooning a puddle of hot bacon fat over two plump yolks, watching them bubble and crisp.
Lately I’ve been eating my eggs like this a lot, ever since starting the keto diet two years ago. I was thinking about this old memory of eggs with my Dad on a recent Sunday morning as I cooked them for myself. I realized with nostalgia — and a bit of dismay — that prior to me going keto, neither my father nor I, nor any member of my family, ate eggs this way for almost 50 years. That memory, from the mid 60s, was probably the last time.
The low-fat era
My father was a doctor — a surgeon with an academic appointment. He prided himself on keeping current with all the medical literature. He read the Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine and other top ranked medical journals every single week, well into his retirement.
He was persuaded, like almost all in the medical profession, that the research evidence showed the need to cut out fat for heart health. Somewhere around the mid 1960s, as a family we stopped eating saturated fat and made a conscious effort to lower our consumption of cholesterol in all its forms. We consumed eggs in moderation. There was never any big discussion about it. It just happened.
Margarine replaced butter, lean hamburger replaced juicy marbled meat. Fat was trimmed off steaks and roasts. Eggs were poached in water. No more Sunday morning eggs basted in bacon fat. In fact, those eggs were dubbed “heart attack eggs” — and a recipe still exists by that name on the internet.
In my adulthood I became so fat phobic that for at least three decades the thought of those old eggs cooked in bacon fat turned my stomach. That memory of making eggs with my father was not a fond memory then, but rather a fragment of a bizarre fat-fueled time. “Can you believe we used to eat eggs that way?” (We would also remark on the pictures from that time about how skinny my grandmother, father, mother and all their relatives were. We didn’t put the two together, at all.)
When I first started eating keto two years ago, the hardest part for me was to fully embrace adding saturated fat back into my diet after decades without it. It felt scary and risky.
Soon however, it became very clear that fat had been the missing macronutrient in my diet. My cravings disappeared, my pre-diabetes reversed, my extra pounds melted away, my skin became more dewy (no small achievement in one’s 50s!). The heels of my feet no longer thickened and cracked.
Now I add fat to everything – I sauté kale and other veggies in butter and garlic, I add a pat of butter to my soft boiled eggs (like my grandfather always did.) I melt butter with chives and parsley on my steak – like steak houses always did in the 1950s and 60s. My scrambled eggs, rather than being dry and tasteless, now are silky with lots of butter, cream and cheddar cheese.And now my Sunday morning eggs basted in bacon fat is one of the treats I like best about this way of eating, connecting me to the simpler past, before we got off track with the low-fat insanity.
I talked to my parents the other day – both are now 91 now and still doing quite well, living independently in their own home. My sisters have also adopted the low-carb high-fat diet, so my parents are fascinated to hear about how we are all doing with “this new way of eating.”
“It’s not really a new way of eating,” I say, “it’s actually an old way of eating — remember how you used to baste fried eggs in bacon fat like your mother did?”
“Oh, that was such a long time ago.”
“Well Dad, we are eating eggs like that again. It doesn’t harm our health – in fact it helps our health. And they taste great.”