Shirred eggs – and discovering Henry and Margaret

It’s been too long since we’ve heard from Henry and Margaret, so I’d like to repost my original introduction to them three and a half years ago. It all started in a diner not too far from here…

A diner…

… in which we overhear an intriguing conversation…

My wife and I were having breakfast at a local diner one Sunday last fall when my ears perked up to a conversation coming from the next booth.

“What you got planned for the day, Margaret?”

“Well, Henry, I know it’s your day off, so I thought I’d get busy hauling up the skiff and dragging the motor up to the shop to winterize it, then go back to the skiff and flip her over onto those logs.”

“Oh, Margaret, that skiff’s heavy, I should help you with that –“

“Nothin’ doin’, Henry, I can manage just fine and I know you got to get ready for your poker game with the boys.”

“Well –“

“Then I’m going to bleed the brakes on the Chevy – Phyllis is headed over to help with that – and try to strap up that loose tailpipe, assuming I can get the right u-bolt, otherwise use hose clamps or baling wire. And now Therman Fogg needs help taking his engine down – you know that old Jeep he has –“

“I thought Therman was pretty handy with things like that –“

“Not as handy as he thinks, he’ll probably bust a motor mount so I should be there when he does it. Then we’ll get started honing out his cylinders and try to finish up tomorrow.”

“That’s a V-8, isn’t it?”

“Yuh, a 304, and we’re going to put a new four-barrel onto it.”

“Sounds like a pretty full day.”

“Well, I promised myself I’d deal with that pile of oak stovewood that’s been sitting out past the barn for two years, I thought I’d bring it all up to the woodshed, which has room for it.  And then –“

“That’s a cord and a half easy. I should help you with the wood.”

“No, Henry, you got that Patriots game with the boys, after poker. Nothin’ doin’ – and I should grab you some chips and beer for that, when I have a chance. Then, you probably remember, Sadie has her dance lesson and Joey has the school play rehearsal, so after I get them there I’m helping Phyllis frame up the last two walls of her cabin, assuming I can use your nail gun. Her chop saw probably needs a new blade, but we’ll do what we can. Remember where your big level went?”

“Front hall closet.”

“Good. What do you want for supper?”

“Well, we talked about grilling some rib-eyes –“

“I’ll need to grab some propane then and unplug the intake – it’s all gummed up from the time the whole thing fell in the lake.”

“Don’t remind me.”

At that point the waitress came to their booth and said,

“Pancakes all right, Margaret?”

“‘Fraid so.”


“Just fine.”

When she left, Margaret continued, “If I got time, I want to take a gander at that stovepipe guy wire on the roof – it looks a bit slack to me.”

“I’d feel better if you didn’t go up on that roof.”

“I’d feel better if that stovepipe doesn’t come crashing down, don’t you go worryin’ ’bout me.”

For the rest of breakfast they settled down to eat. I exchanged glances with my wife, and we got back to eating a good meal. When Henry and Margaret left the diner, there was plenty either one of us could have said, but we didn’t say a word.

It’s good to be in Maine.


Shirred Eggs

I sometimes made shirred eggs for my kids when they were growing up. What can possibly be wrong with eggs, butter, cream, and cheddar cheese – especially if you make it just two or three times a year? Yes, it’s rich and fattening, but too delicious not to serve as a special breakfast treat from time to time. Very simple to make.

You’ll need, for one serving:
  • butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsps. cream or half-and-half
  • 2 Tbsps. grated cheddar (or gruyere, or swiss)
  • cayenne and black pepper to taste
  • optional: chopped chives or tarragon
  • a ramekin
Now do these things:

Preheat oven to 350. Coat the ramekin with butter, then put the cream in, and add the two eggs. Sprinkle grated cheese on top, and then the seasonings.

Put the ramekin(s) directly on a middle oven rack, and bake for 18 – 22 minutes, depending on how firm you like your eggs. I like them medium-firm, which is about 20 minutes (note that these cooking times are for cream and eggs straight from the fridge). The dish will appear to be runny on top, but that’s just the cream – the eggs will be nicely done.

Let the ramekin cool for a couple of minutes, then serve it up – either straight from the ramekin or spooned out over toast or biscuits.


Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.