Cafes and the Collapse of Kindness - How Our Obsession with Perfection is Sewing the Seeds of Isolation
'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men,
Couldn't put Humpty together again.' - Nursery rhyme of unknown origin, in which Humpty is never explicitly referred to as an egg.
Eggs were a dietary staple for countless creatures long before humans put them on the menu. Whether big eggs, small eggs, cooked eggs, raw eggs, tiny embryos or clouds of roe, practically every predator on earth has a preference, yet only humans revere eggs while simultaneously devouring them.
For us, eggs are more than an opportunistic dietary staple. The humble egg symbolises our identity as a species to the same degree as the chemical symbol H20. Eggs feature in everything from contemporary religious iconography to ancient mythology to designer jewellery to pop culture expressionism. Sadly, eggs are likewise the backbone of cafe culture and subsequently at the mercy of frivolous all-day diners.
How did something so profoundly intrinsic to our identity as a species surrender to the fickle whims of dissatisfied diners, amateur restaurant critics and outright Karens? By abandoning the egg's philosophical and artistic connotations in favour of what I will call Eggism, a legion of Eggists have simultaneously elevated eggs to unsustainable heights while plunging them into mediocrity.
What is Eggism, and who are the Eggists?
Eggism is the state of excess in which pedantic gluttons (Eggists) hang their collective expectations and sense of self-worth upon the overpriced blobs of protein prepared by underpaid hospitality staff in trendy cafes. Eggism is the sense of entitlement that sees ordinary people shamelessly kick and scream after imposing quantum specifics and outrageous expectations upon eggs that diners will photograph before eating. Chances are, you have seen these childish Eggists berating cafe employees (usually a fraction of their age) over their supposedly inadequate poached eggs. Moreover, these shameless Eggists believe so fervently in their own righteousness that tantrums are both justified and necessary.
Indeed, suppose these Eggists perceive any imperfections with their poached, scrambled, fried, boiled, curried, raw, soft, hard, over-easy, sunny-side-up, whites only, yolks only or the infamous hard-but-soft-but-not-too-hard eggs. In that case, an indignant tirade of obnoxious self-righteousness is inevitable.
What makes otherwise passive people explode over their eggs? Why do so many diners wholeheartedly regress to Eggism at the expense of other people's happiness?
Relative to recommended daily intake, most Western diets are horrendously excessive. Eggism pairs this overabundance with a culture in which the ability to brunch is not just a status symbol but a rite of passage. Only through Eggism may budding influencers draw attention to themselves by eating an aesthetic brunch in a relatively trendy setting. But unlike a complex whiskey or full-bodied wine, eggs do not require a delicate palate to appreciate. While there are many ways to spice up an egg, ultimately, eggs just taste like eggs. So, more often than not, Eggists take issue with texture and presentation.
But that's not to say Eggists don't have their favourites. Even passive Eggists adore their eggs one way while merely tolerating them in all other forms. We are all Eggists on this level, but few of us outwardly succumb to Eggism. The difference is that true Eggists cannot behave reasonably before moving on with their lives, preferring to draw as much attention and humiliation to the issue as possible. Unfortunately, these are the Eggists with the most influence over others, as is often the case with extremists.
Our eating habits are typically formed at home, meaning Eggists tend to favour simplicity when cooking for themselves. Therefore, scrambled and fried eggs become the standards, leaving those fiddly poached eggs as a curiosity that few are willing to refine. Naturally, by the standards Eggism projects upon cafe culture, poached eggs are seen as a luxurious delicacy with nearly divine properties. Considering this, unless the Eggist has ordered exceedingly demanding fried or scrambled eggs, a botched poached egg is a direct assault on the Eggist's sense of self-worth.
Eggists subsequently pepper cafes across the globe with slanderous online reviews, claiming that the egg in question was either too hard or not hard enough or too soft or not soft enough. Typically, the Eggist responsible is someone with access to clean drinking water, disposable income, modern technology, affordable internet, a means of transportation and free time during the day in the middle of the week. For someone surrounded by such luxuries, why is a superficially upsetting egg - that is still perfectly edible - able to spawn such unwarranted degrees of entitlement?
Nothing, let alone eggs, should have this power over those with privilege, yet much of our society's internalised anger and confusion with modern life centres around our diets. Like many modern problems, Eggism is, therefore, a quirk of evolution, a residual tick that inadvertently places one's base needs above one's social standing within a tribe. Couple this with the anonymity and distance provided by the internet, which paradoxically negates yet elevates one's social importance, and Eggism becomes a simple regression to humanity's cut-throat origins.
Eggism has placed the heightened anxieties of an entire society on the humble egg, not to mention the mental stability of those responsible for its preparation. And rather than channel this irrational outrage into something constructive, Eggists criminalise those who have supposedly failed in their sacred duty. Is it any wonder that employees view such customers and their corresponding demographics as entitled and contemptible losers? Such polarisation is inevitable when considering the immense wealth gap and age differences between those serving eggs in cafes and those eating eggs in cafes. Why must Eggists insist upon clouding the discourse between classes? Why are Eggists incapable of expressing themselves politely? After all, there is a human being on the receiving end of their polemics, one with problems surpassing a slightly firm poached egg. Surely, this alone is worth swallowing one's pride alongside a less-than-perfect egg.
In defence of Eggism, cafes must honour and value their paying customers. Cafes should take genuine criticism seriously, but only within reason and when respectfully given. Eggists, on the other hand, base their entire mood, mental stability and, by association, the mood and mental stability of others on the empty promise of reproduction. This is optimistic under any circumstances.
But what if an egg is sincerely below the reasonable expectations of even the most passive Eggists? After all, like any high-output, labour-intensive and vaguely exploitative industry, industrial kitchens occasionally make honest mistakes. Sometimes human error rears its familiar face, and an embarrassing egg slips through the line.
More often than not, the most passionate Eggists are those behind the scenes, the cooks and chefs who work diligently to deliver ideals and ethics that define the industry and their identities. None are more disappointed with an unacceptable egg than a professional whose exacting standards have slipped. Eggists in the dining room should keep these professionals in mind when hammering home just how disgusted they are with their eggs. Indeed, while mass fatalities, ecocide, child slavery and corruption plague other industries, hospitality's impact on society rarely exceeds minor inconvenience to paying customers. Yet Eggists seldom direct their fury at the CEOs poisoning their drinking water. Instead, they waste their otherwise productive outrage on small businesses and individuals, who likewise return the sentiments. This makes the already oversaturated industry so cut-throat that even a slightly subpar egg - by nature the most susceptible item on a cafe menu to unforeseen circumstances - may generate unnecessary financial and emotional distress.
Eggism spawns from an unadventurous majority combining an abundance of free time and disposable income with a staggering lack of creativity, thus defining every social interaction by showcasing yet another brunch. Many Eggists compare their troubled lives with the stylised brunches they see online. These Eggists then embrace Eggism as an acceptable compromise for individual expression. Eggism, in its most fundamental form, is the reliance on something as precarious as an edible membrane encased in a wafer-thin shell to validate the Eggist's right to life.
Indeed, thanks to social media, our daily lives are riddled with many forms of Eggism, but most rarely turn their immaturity on others. Only the most fanatical Eggists trail this foul air of tension through the cafes that fail their facile needs. These juvenile Eggists (colloquially known as Karens when outside the confines of a cafe) deserve little sympathy but immense pity.
Some may excuse their behaviour by claiming that I am being facetious and carrying on to an unnecessary degree about something as trivial as eggs. And while this may, indeed, seem ironic, it handily highlights Eggism's most astounding hypocrisy and its core foundation - that something only matters when it matters to the Eggists.
Eggism is little more than an excuse for fundamentally insecure, pompous, overgrown infants to lash out at ordinary people with impunity. Their grievances are invariably petty, and their unsubstantiated justifications hinge on the universal fact that life is occasionally somewhat underwhelming. But these hysterical Eggists are merely empty shells, powerless to influence anything in the grand scheme of existence. They have only the misery they inflict upon themselves and others. They place unrealistic expectations on the preparation of eggs, which are secondary to their actual concerns. One day, sooner rather than later, eggs will return to their primary purpose, the dust of humanity will whisper on the breeze, and another species will spend countless generations evolving to such unassailable selfishness that their societies will deserve to collapse.
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