My first successful dish after a long bout of flu — with resulting reluctance to eat, much less cook — defies the laws of physics.
The concept was to construct an individual-sized portion of TheKitchn’s Quick Breakfast Casserole, thus enabling myself to eat some nice eggs without standing pathetically over a hot stove, weakly waving a spatula. And then it puffed.
A concept dish requires a concept album. I’ve been mildly obsessed with B.o.B.’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray since belatedly buying it a couple weeks ago. Plus, much like my accidental souffle, it consists of a bizarre agglomeration of ingredients that nonetheless melds and sings. You can take a partial listen here, but I’m going to go more-or-less track by track, with a surprise at the end. If B.o.B. has somehow slipped your mind, the video of his nigh-unto-ubiquitous hit is after the jump and before the recipe.
During the past summer, my local radio stations featured more Airplanes than Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, including the dinky little United puddle-jumper terminal that has crappy wifi reception. To my overwhelming relief after paying the album price, this song does reflect the central themes of the album: lyrical instrumentals, a deceptively soothing beat, pretty good imagery, and a more nuanced view of success than the stereotypical “gimme da bling” view. So let’s break some eggs and see what we make.
I’m frying up two frozen pork sausages because that’s the only meat other than salami that I had in the house. If you value your arteries, you will use ham instead. While this is getting started, preheat your oven to 375.
The album opens with the tickling of almost classical piano and the flip side of Airplanes: a song about shooting for the stars and getting up so high. Far from being a rapper’s “I so great” brag, “Don’t Let Me Fall” is almost plaintive in its depiction of the experience of suddenly being offered a world of longed-for possibilities.
Also plaintive is the expression of my two eggs in a bit less than half a cup of low-fat milk. These eggs need encouragement. They need “Nothin’ on You,” featuring Bruno Mars.
Now. I gripe about misogyny in hip hop lyrics. (Hint, dudes: finer.) I gripe about Top 40 lyrics being over-focused on getting down in the club (though my complaint lately is that the emphasis on putting one’s hands in the air makes “Carryout” look like Proust).
Then there’s Bruno Mars. It’s an entire song about how the viewpoint character’s girlfriend is perfect for him for non-superficial reasons. Since she is both the whole package and pays her taxes, she is smart, responsible, or both. And he’s not cheating on her. [pets Bruno Mars]
She may even know how to make edible scrambled eggs. After years of reproducing my mother’s patented eggs of rubber, I finally learned last week how to do it right. First, you add milk (as above). Then you take the hand mixer and whip the hell out of them. Whip it! Whip it good!
The eggs now have no expression, kind of like B.o.B.’s insistence that you can’t see “Past My Shades” (though he fears looking in the mirror). This track and the next-but-one (“Bet I”) are the most menacing material on the album, and I’ll admit I’m a wimp and tend to skip the latter, even though the careening beat and eerie whoo-whoo effects are a pretty damned good musical representation of bravado. I’m in a hurry to get to “Ghost in the Machine,” where vocals layered slightly askew give the aural feel of a double-exposed photo, reinforcing its effect of being the small, quiet voice of the soul beneath the prior song’s defiance. (Somewhere in my parents’ attic are old canisters of film in which my Dad deliberately practiced double-exposure “ghost” effects on the family home movies because he was maybe 23 and thought the technology was cool.)
To the frothy eggs, add the sausage or alternate meats, a good big handful of shredded cheese (I used Italian mix), and as generous a sprinkle of herbs are you can stand (I went to town with the dried Italian seasoning, possibly to the point of over-enthusiasm).
Clap-clap-stomp-stomp! We’re filled with so much hatred, the kids don’t stand a chance! Dump the egg mixture into a buttered oven-safe dish. One of those little Pyrex custard bowls just about does it.
On a more positive note, let’s move right along to “Magic,” which is the corniest piece of brilliance or the most brilliant piece of corniness I’ve encountered in a while. Yes, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer has been recruited for a collaboration that sounds as if Michael Franti had gone on a lost weekend with Barry White. Pay close attention to how the innocent lo-fi beat retards and accelerates. Pure sex.
Bring on the microplane! (That sounded kinky.) It works on blocks of parmesan sufficiently well that you probably want to take the cheese away before I get too enthusiastic.
It turns out (“Fame”) that when he’s up on the stage they sing it. As soon as he steps off they hate it… but f-ck it, this the entertainment biz so let the games begin, I mean let the flames begin. This is another one that has a Motown retro sound; what I can’t fathom is why George and Ira Gershwin have co-writing credits.
Put the egg mixture on a pan in the oven. I gave it 10 minutes, gave it another 10… and then IT PUFFED. Although hip hop traditionally includes a lot of puffery, I hadn’t expected to find any in the oven. Indeed, I hadn’t done anything that’s supposedly required to make a souffle puff. But nothing’s lovelier than this bit of eggs. I gave it another five minutes to finish solidifying, so a total of 25 minutes.
“Fifth Dimension” does not give co-writing credits to any members of the Fifth Dimension but does credit Marvin Gaye. I have no idea if this is a paean to Star Trek, a statement of artistic integrity, or a really, really elaborate pick-up line. Including Marvin Gaye’ll do that to a song.
And that brings us to the sequel to Airplanes, in which instead of B.o.B.’s rapping to reference his admiration for Eminem, he brings in Eminem to rap. Behind your shades, are you the obscure kid wishing to be famous or the star wishing for a simpler life? Let’s pretend that airplanes in the night sky are shooting stars.
It’s puffy! It holds its puff surprisingly well, too. The eggs turn out to be frothy and cheesy and oh-so-eggy good.
This delightful surprise calls for a closing song that’s also frothy and a bit cheesy. A common charge against the current Top 40 is the heavy processing, so let’s go with B.o.B. singing (yes, singing, not rapping) to his own guitar accompaniment on a sweet-natured song he wrote all by himself. Could there be a more devoted sentiment than “we go together like the tub and shower head above”? Not with clean lyrics.
Yes, that was a pun. Deal with it.