Two weeks ago, I was on the ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki, listening to an interview on my headphones when suddenly I saw a man standing in front of me, pointing at me with his index finger. I took off my headphones just in time to hear him say, “Risto, right?”
It was Lare. I recognized him right away, which was pretty impressive, considering that I had only seen him once since we lost touch after fourth grade (mine, Lare’s third) and even that was more than twenty years ago.
But there we were, sitting at the table by the window, talking like that was all we ever did. We talked about his Dad (who was the first person I remember dying), about his 98-year-old grandfather who had lost his driver’s license and was wondering how he’d get to the summer cottage now, about my kids, his kids, our old hood, my work, and his work as a bodyguard at the finest and most legendary hotel in Helsinki.
“Some of the celebrities are really nice,” he told me. “Like Springsteen, he’s been there a couple of times. He’s a good guy … except that he gave me a T-shirt that was way too small so I had to go back and give him some feedback,” Lare said with a laugh.
“So, no rökötys for him,” I said.
Rökötys. Rökötys. Just saying the word makes me smile. Rökötys! I’m not sure how official the name of the dish is, or how widespread it is. I don’t even know exactly what it’s supposed to be, I just know the version I learned as a kid.
(I Googled “rökötys” just now, got eight hits and none of them had anything to do with eggs. )
But it has something to do with eggs. In fact, they say you can’t make rökötys without breaking some eggs. Or, maybe it was just Lare who said it. Or – and this is even more likely – it was Lare’s Dad who said it. Either way, who ever said it was right. You can’t make rökötys without breaking some eggs because rökötys is like scrambled eggs if you don’t whisk the eggs and just turn and stir the eggs in the pan.
You can add salt if you want to. Lare and I never wanted to.
The first time I tasted rökötys was at Lare’s house where I spent many an afternoon after school when I was in second grade. Lare was in first grade, but we had become buddies two years earlier when neither one of us was in school and instead, we spent our days at daycare together. I don’t know what we did all day long. I guess we played in the park and in the winter, we skied down the hill by the side of the building. It seemed so big back then, but there was only time for three turns.
Then I started school and I only spent afternoons with Lare and the other kids at the family daycare, and the year after that, Lare started school, too, but we stayed in touch. His Dad was a soccer player and I had just started to play soccer so I thought he was pretty cool. Lare thought his Dad was pretty cool, too.
Again, I don’t remember exactly what we did when we hung out, but I guess we played soccer and played games and did … stuff. I remember their apartment building, and their front door, and I do remember where they had their phone because I used to call Mom to see if I could get an extension.
I’d ask for “another fifteen minutes, a half hour tops”, and usually Mom said it was fine. Lare’s house was only a five-minute walk from our house, on the same street, so that if she could have opened the kitchen window and reached out, she would’ve seen Lare’s house.
One day, I came home after one or two extensions of the deadline – I started early with that – and told Mom excitedly that I had learned to cook.
“What did you make?” she asked me.
“Rökötys,” I said, and I couldn’t have been prouder.
“Well,” I said and turned out that could be even prouder, “you take a couple of eggs, and you put butter in the pan, and then you break the eggs and then you flip them and turn and stir them until they get brown.”
“Oh. So, fried eggs?”
“No, no,” I said. “Rökötys.”
Then I showed Mom how to do it and if you’re ever in our house for breakfast, I’ll show you how it’s done, too. Unless your name is Bruce Springsteen.