These Are the Scrambled Eggs of the Future
The future looks bleak
There’s an episode of M*A*S*H that I think about a lot. It’s the one where a local farmer, grateful for the help that the 4077th Unit has given him, promises an entire day's egg production to be served at a special Sunday brunch. It's an unexpected respite from the tedium of powdered eggs, and the culinarily deprived personnel begin fantasizing about how they'd like theirs prepared. The highfalutin Major Charles Winchester requests his "delicately poached on toast, bronzed to perfection side-by-side with precisely sauteed kippers." No-nonsense Major Margaret Houlihan prefers hers "boiled exactly three minutes and 15 seconds," and the genial Captain B.J. Hunnicutt fantasizes about diving into a couple "fried up, so the yolk is a glowing yellow jewel in a shimmering alabaster white." Their dreams are collectively thwarted by 1. A cranky cook who scrambles the whole lot and 2. The whole mess being knocked into the dirt when an AWOL soldier fires a rifle into the air, inciting chaos. Fresh eggs are never mentioned again. War is hell.
This is all to say that I've been morbidly curious about powdered eggs since the early 1980s and finally got around to trying them for the first time—that I'm aware of. Powdered eggs have long been a staple of soldiers and campers and, more recently, doomsday preppers. The spray drying process by which they're made removes the water weight and negates the need for a shell, making them both lightweight and shelf-stable for up to a decade. Stash a plastic pail in your bunker or a can in your bug-out bag and you'll have all the protein you'll need to fight off our robot and/or alien invaders when the reckoning comes. And it will.
But before I have to, I wanted to, so I bought a small bag of dried whole eggs (they also come separated into white and yolks), and for additional fun, powdered butter and powdered cheese, because even in the end times, we must cling to our humanity. Per the instructions, I mixed a generous tablespoon of powdered egg with two tablespoons of water to reconstitute the powder into approximately the volume of a single egg, and it quickly formed a beige sludge that seemed emotionally tolerable in the short term and potentially madness-inducing in the long. I'm a solidly established fan of crappy scrambled eggs from my days at summer camp, but I am still a flesh mortal for now. The addition of butter and cheese powders brought things to a slightly more recognizable food hue, even if that of boxed mac and cheese—which hey, I could happily jam down by the saucepan full as the world burned and a robot alien decreed me its eternal combat spouse.
I poured the neon slop into a lubricated skillet and waited. My original intent was an omelet, but I couldn't not poke and to my great shock, the slurry formed into curds quite quickly. I shoveled them onto a plate and stabbed a forkful into my slavering human maw and, well, when the battle fades into memory and Glarsnorx and I finally get past the awkward logistical phase (all those … parts) and produce our first hybrid spawn, we will tell them that this pile of damp sand and pillow foam that squishes and shifts grittily and uncannily—almost familiarly—against the tongue and palate (presuming they have mouths) are what their mother once knew as cheesy scrambled eggs. I will nod and smile—I'll eventually learn how to do that again—and may pretend or even want to believe that they are indeed and have always been what eggs are so that our world may remain in peace. I may be just a shell of myself, but I know I'll remember.