A Saturday morning, over easy

Chris Erskine can be reached at

By the time the sun hit the driveway, I was preparing a Saturday morning breakfast. Dicing onions first. Then, mushrooms. Like Dylan, chop-chop-choppin’ on heaven’s door.

“Easy on the garlic, OK?” my wife says.

“OK,” I say.

There is one spot in every refrigerator that looks as if a hamster might live there. In our case, it’s the garlic drawer. As I stare at the garlic drawer, I remember a story I just heard about a couple who attended that garlic festival up in Gilroy. They were sent home from work the next day because they smelled too much like a plate of scampi. We are what we reek. With that in mind, I reach for several cloves.


“You like peppers?” I ask Hank when he arrives.

“Sure,” he says.


“Why not?”


My buddy Hank is here for eggs and coffee. A year ago, we bet breakfast on the outcome of a local high school football game. It is one of the hallmarks of a gentleman that he pay back all wagers in a timely fashion. In this case, within the same century.

Hank has brought along that woman he’s been seeing. Martha. Married now 20-something years. I pour them coffee and switch on an early college game.

“What’s that?” Martha says, staring at the frying pan.

“Chorizo,” I explain.


“Oh dear,” she says.

Each year we do this breakfast, and always our wives cling to us like ivy while we cook, afraid for the house and surrounding neighborhood. They are worried that at any moment a smoke detector will go off and someone will throw a running shoe at it and scuff the ceiling. Which has happened. It was six months before someone finally climbed a ladder and touched it up.

“Why don’t you guys bet money like everyone else?” Martha asks.

“Because we don’t have any,” Hank says.


“Onions?” I ask as I prepare his eggs.

“Of course,” Hank says.

Hank and I have reached that magic moment in our lives where we have eaten so much onion, garlic and pickles that they won’t need to embalm us when we die. Based on a continuous diet of things that never rot, we’ll be pre-embalmed. How thoughtful is that? To think that all most husbands do is scribble a will and leave a little life insurance.

“Cheese?” I ask Hank.



“Mushrooms?” I ask.

“Why not?” he says.

In the living room, the baby is banging on a table like Khrushchev. In the bedrooms, the other children still snooze, on pillows of hair made soft by the best shampoos their mother can afford.


And in the kitchen, Hank and I watch a kid quarterback, not much older than our own sons, make a wrong decision and pay the price. Between bites of egg, we discuss world affairs.

“USC better not look past Stanford,” Hank says.

“What’s up with the Huskies?” I ask.

Meanwhile, an extra batch of onions is caramelizing into bits of candy. I flavor them with a splash of coffee in the pan, proving once again that I am a genius only in very random and meaningless ways.


“How’s Daniel like college?” I ask.

“He called the other day,” Martha says. “He actually did some homework.”

“You must’ve been so proud,” I say.

“And he’s only in his second week,” Hank notes.


Of all our friends -- and we have several -- Hank and Martha are probably the ones with a lifestyle most like our own. If there is bathroom tile to be laid, we lay it ourselves. If there is a team that needs a coach, our wives sign us up. Hank and I are masters at finding things we are not quite good at, then throwing ourselves at them wholeheartedly. Projects. Hobbies. Marriage.

“You know what we need?” I ask at one point.

“Younger wives?” Hank asks.

“Those doughnuts with custard in them,” I say. “Belgium cream.”


“You mean Bavarian cream?” my wife asks.

She goes on to explain that living with me is like living on a game show, where you constantly have to guess many of the correct answers. The way she puts it, it sounds more romantic than it really is.

I look at her proudly and explain to them my motto for marriage: Marry well. Once.

“It’s a lot harder than it sounds,” I explain.


“It is?” Martha asks.

“Trust me,” I say.

“More coffee?” Hank asks.