Several years ago we travelled to Sardinia and stayed on the coast at the north end of the Island near Porto Rafael in a mountain-top residence called Villa Luna overlooking the Mediterranean sea and nearby Corsica and the Maddalena archipelago.
The Villa is located on a sizeable estate which in addition to sprawling lawns and adjoining wooded areas unexpectedly affords thriving and luxuriant rosemary bushes at the garden door leading from the spacious marble-countered and stone-floored kitchen. Without particular design I had purchased at the local bakery and butcher shop a massive and dense loaf of bread, Pecorino cheese and ham slices, items which I considered authentic Italian partiality. Naturally our cooking provisions already ncluded elemental ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, eggs, tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Even though in those days I still provided scope for the uninhibited indulgence of liquor and wine (a gratification I wistfully recall), whenever I hauled myself from the lair in the morning it was but the work of a moment before, having wandered from the bedroom through the scene of the crime at last evening’s dinner with its tell-tale remnants of white linen and stained wine glasses into the cool kitchen, I concocted what has since become a signature of my culinary repertoire – namely, egg-in-the-hole. Although I had had an egg-in-the-hole when I was a child, it was a breakfast scene in the movie “Moonstruck” (starring Cher and Nicolas Cage) which had lately inspired the recollection. To my own amazement – since I do not have anything more than a modest instinct when it comes to cooking – I calculated that the addition of fresh rosemary (which every morning imparted its fragrant bouquet) to an Italian breakfast of oil, bread, ham, cheese and tomatoes might bring about a successful combination.
One hardly qualifies as insightful to spot that the hallmark ingredients of salt, oil, bread and cheese will inevitably work their own magic whatever the manner of coalition. The added feature of frying the bread in the oil so that its edges are crispy brown guaranteed the success of the enterprise. The result was so compelling and singularly satisfying that I repeated the matutinal adventure every day of our journey in Sardinia. It is I suppose a small compliment to my talent that I revisited the meal incessantly but I can honestly say that it spoke to me without diminution. Such is the strength of basic Mediterranean food.
Since those happy days at Villa Luna we have embarked upon another maritime escapade on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Here however our regular breakfast has been distinguished more by fresh fruit and the noticeable lack of bread (though I am quick to confess the deprivation has done nothing to reduce our protuberant bellies). This morning I revived the Villa Luna tradition of egg-in-the-hole. Allow me the privilege to observe that the outcome was nonpareil! As for the special effect of fresh rosemary (even though serendipitously we have located bushes of the stuff throughout the Island), I bought that at the grocery store yesterday.
Whether it is either accurate or believable to suggest that egg-in-the-hole is a southern maritime dish matters not. It does in any event coincide remarkably well with salt sea air. As a preliminary to putting on the nosebag this morning I peeled an orange. The coffee was black and robust. Call me old fashioned but it all worked!