College Majors and Eggs for Dinner

February 23, 2012

I graduated from college with a degree in theatre.  I got plenty of “What are you going to do with a degree in theatre?”, though thankfully, not from my parents who were supportive of a less conventional major.  I attended a liberal arts college so there were plenty of English and Art History majors, but there were also lots of Economics and Government majors who all thought their degrees would be more “useful”.  My college roommate’s father allowed her to major in theatre but only if she double majored in Economics.  Not a lot of crossover in those two fields.

While I did not go on to become an actress, nor did I ever attempt to become an actress, I feel like my degree has been extremely useful in my life.  At the most basic level, I learned a lot about theatre and plays and I had a chance to read some of our greatest examples of literature.  Randy and I make it a priority to go the theatre and I am always amazed by how much knowledge I have retained.  (I can’t say the same about my math class.)  I got to experience putting on the makeup and costume of another person and becoming that person for a few hours every night.  I learned the art of working ahead – getting school work done a week before it was actually due so that I would have production week free from those pressures.  I also learned how to do work behind the scenes as a stage manager, makeup artist, costume assistant.  I learned that, no matter how intense the butterflies in my stomach, I would never actually throw up, and how to channel that adrenaline into a better performance.

Beyond those four years of acting, directing, reading, I also learned how to speak clearly, make eye contact, appear calm even when I am not, and use my voice effectively.  I’ve used those skills while performing in plays or singing in coffeehouses but also in every job interview I have sat through, every date I have been on, every presentation I have ever made, and every class I have ever taught.  Like many of my classmates, I would never have imagined myself doing what I do now when I was throwing my cap up in the air in May of 1992.  But I can’t believe how much I love it.

I know I mention my cooking classes here often but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I feel about them.  I love teaching.  I really do.  I taught yoga from 2001-2003 and I loved that as well.  Sometimes a special thing happens between teacher and student, especially when the teacher is really passionate about what they teach, and I feel lucky to have experienced that feeling in two different spheres.  I am in planning mode for my spring quarter of classes and am really excited about what the next few months will hold.

Alas, teaching means testing.  And I don’t mean making my students take a test.  I mean searching out recipes, or developing my own, and making sure, time and time again if necessary, that they work.  I mean sometimes eating the same thing several nights in a row while trying to get it right.  It’s all worth it of course.  But sometimes, when I am gearing up for a busy couple of weeks, I miss just being able to, you know, make dinner.

I had a little window before my cooking life became not my own and I knew I had to take advantage of that freedom to just make something I wanted to eat.  Not test.  As is often the case, I got a little overwhelmed with choices.  I have so much bounty in terms of recipes between books, magazines, blogs, restaurant experiences – how to choose what to make.  Perhaps you are familiar with this feeling.  As I started to get overwhelmed and ordering pizza started to seem like a good idea, I opted to just stick with a cookbook that is relatively new to me and exciting.  It was the jumping off point for this salad and also has the least imaginative name ever.  But boy, did we love this dish.

We don’t often eat eggs for dinner.  You should know that as I’m typing that sentence, I am simultaneously promising myself that we will eat eggs more often for dinner.  I love a good poached/fried/soft-boiled egg but none of those options sound good to me at breakfast time.  It would make sense, seeing as I love them and that I am a vegetarian, that eggs would be a regular part of our dinner routine.  I’ve just never made them a priority.  But when I see a recipe like this one, really just an egg curry, and it speaks loudly to me, it is clear I need to rethink the egg and dinner relationship.  As I was getting ready to serve this lovely, filling, and nutritious dish, I decided it seemed a little thin, so I added chickpeas.  Not necessary, especially if you add more eggs, but I thought the combination was great.

Two Years Ago:  Red Lentil Dhal
Three Years Ago:  Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sambal Telur
Loosely adapted from Vegetarian
Serves 4

4 eggs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 shallots, 1 chopped for garnish, 3 thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or grated
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp. ground tumeric
1 tbsp. sambal oelek, or other chile sauce
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (can be “lite”)
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and fill to cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set the timer for 6 minutes.  Immediately scoop out the eggs and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain and set aside.  (This amount of cooking time will give you an egg with a very soft yolk.  Let them sit for another minute, 7 total, if you like your yolk a little firmer.)

Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Add the chopped shallots along with a healthy pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through and brown, about 5 minutes.  Shallots burn very easily so keep a close eye on them.  Scrape the shallots out onto a paper towel lined plate.  Set aside for the garnish.

Return the pan to the heat.  Pour in the other tablespoon of oil, then add the sliced shallots, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a minute.  Add the coriander, cumin, tumeric, sambal oelek, the canned tomatoes, and the tomato paste.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in the coconut milk, tamarind, and brown sugar along with a large pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.  Add the eggs and the chickpeas and simmer for a few minutes more to heat it all through.  Serve over rice and garnish with the fried shallots.


  1. This looks so tasty Dana. I could even have it for breakfast!

    Comment by bellini — February 23, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  2. Mmm bookmarked! This sounds so tasty :)

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — February 23, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  3. I like eggs for dinner, and this looks terrific.
    I never thought of you as the “drama queen” type.

    Comment by stacey snacks — February 23, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  4. I think there’s a definite value to college majors that we don’t “use” in our careers. I’m an anthropology major (undergrad and grad) currently searching for a job, any job, that even vaguely has to do with what I studied. I’m about ready to give up and draw on my yoga teacher training for work or go back to school. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t draw on my education on a daily basis or regret my major!
    It’s always nice to hear from someone else who has a successful career that isn’t cookie-cutter right out of college.
    Eggs for dinner are a necessity in my house. I’ve never paired them with something this elaborate or flavorful, though. Yum!

    Comment by Rachel — February 23, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

  5. WOW! I would have never guessed you were a theater major!?!?! Look at you now – you get to do something you LOVE, which is better than some of us with more practical majors.

    As for this dish…looks and sounds AMAZING – any tips as to if you can substitute tamarind for anything?

    Comment by Monique — February 23, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  6. I had no idea you were a theater major! And I really admire the fact that you majored in what you wanted, not what someone else wanted for you. Sometimes, it really takes a lot of fortitude to do that.

    I rarely ever think of making eggs for dinner either, but then when I do I’m always reminded of how GOOD they are! Egg curry sounds so tasty to me!

    Comment by Joanne — February 24, 2012 @ 3:05 am

  7. So I have to admit that I am not a big fan of chickpeas. They are ok roasted and fine pureed but there is something about the texture whole like this that I just don’t like. Is there something else I could substitute because otherwise this looks fabulous. Maybe lentils?

    As a fellow liberal arts grad I think the broad education is the most important part of the degree. I do use my degree in my job but I also love that I can converse confidently about political science, modern poetry, Holocaust history and children’s literature as a result of my liberal arts education, even if my degree is in one of those linear and dry sciences!

    Comment by Kate — February 24, 2012 @ 5:21 am

  8. Monique, you can use lemon juice as a substitute for the tamarind. It’s not the same but it does a nice bit of sourness. I would use the juice of 1 lemon.

    Comment by dana — February 24, 2012 @ 6:01 am

  9. Kate, I would just leave them out. Double the eggs (8 total) and serve each person two eggs.

    Comment by dana — February 24, 2012 @ 6:02 am

  10. My daughter is getting a Fine Arts degree and then hopes to become an art therapist and an artist (her father’s vocation). Stories like yours give me hope. :-)

    Also thanks for writing me with the source for the book!

    Comment by Maureen — February 24, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

  11. Is the name of the cookbook Vegetarian? Who is the author? Thanks!

    Comment by Maureen — February 24, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

  12. If I could go back in time and force myself to take a theater class, I would. In fact, I was speaking recently with someone who just spent a year promoting his self-published book, and his biggest piece of advice was to take an improv class. He said it helped him enormously.

    This philosophy major likes eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She doesn’t know whether the egg came before or after the chicken, but the chickpea? On top looks just about right.

    Comment by cheryl — February 24, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

  13. When I have eggs for dinner, it’s usually hard-boiled and sliced on a salad. This is much more exciting! I’ve been craving these flavors lately. I have to try this.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — February 29, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

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