Susan Bagel: Meringue

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Written by: Sharon Roth and Aniela Drumonde

I hate goodbyes. I hate letting go. It’s not in my nature to give up, but I can’t be strong all the time. 

I buried my stand mixer in the backyard two weeks ago, across from my husband Mr. Bagel’s award-winning aloe vera plants. I hadn’t realized it was failing — how could I not notice? The slow degradation, the senseless animosity of time took my mixer’s soul long before it had ceased to work. At what point did it die? At what point did I hold a stranger in my arms? 

Grief is a funny thing. It ebbs and flows, hitting me at unexpected moments. The sound of an egg cracking makes me itch for the mixer, ready to make something beautiful. I wanted to make meringues for my family. Baked until golden, chewy on the inside, the perfect bite. 

I learned everything I know at the foot of my grandmother. I remember watching, entranced as her gnarled hands delicately formed braided garlic knots. They were beautiful. She would sit at the head of the table, eyes alight with joy, as everyone praised her for her skill. I would watch, on the sidelines, amazed by how far her power reached. She could only make garlic knots. That was her life — her identity. 

I hate goodbyes. First, my grandmother, and now my mixer. When will it end? 

When I think about my grandmother, all that I never got to learn from her, I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself — a golden center full of hope and abundance. I imagine my life as once having so much potential. I was better with my mixer. I felt whole then, or something close to it. 

I stare at the egg whites circling the bowl with a sense of unending mortality. They begin to foam, signaling the beginning of transformation. I crack another egg into my hands, feeling the whites slip irrevocably through my fingers. I beat them into submission, wielding my whisk, my hands raw and aching. 

Baking is my life. It, more than anything else in the world, decides who I am. I orbit around baking like it is the earth and I am the moon — perhaps at some period waning, spirits dampened by the humdrum of life, and at other times waxing with effusive delight over the beautiful, all-consuming double act of creation and consumption. 

I wanted to make meringues for my family. Baked until golden, chewy on the inside, the perfect bite. But what is a meringue if not creation through sacrifice? It deflates so easily, formless unless reworked countless times, over and over, unable to rest. Unable to die. There’s nothing there — just an idea halfway finished. It is a thing warped so far from the original. At what point is a meringue no longer an egg? At what point did I make something that could not recognize itself? 

Every so often, I glance over to where my mixer is buried. Sometimes I visit its unmarked grave, and think of what might have been. I can’t bear to cope with what I have lost — what I will lose. I wonder what has already left me that I haven’t yet realized. I think that scares me the most. Only Mr. Bagel keeps me sane. He’s been spending so much time outside after he gets home from work — his forays into night gardening have made it so that, even when I haven’t seen his face in weeks, I still feel his presence. I don’t make meringues anymore. I wasn’t ready. 

I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. I’ve stopped eating the things I make. It feels like another way of saying goodbye. 

Anyway, here’s the recipe: 

1. Whip egg whites into stiff peaks.

2. Bake in the oven.

3. Serve to your family. Attempt to enjoy.

Graphics Editor at The MQ

Sharon was “born” in 1801. She inspired the Archie Comics, which later inspired the hit TV show Riverdale.

EIC Elect at The MQ

Former Editor-in-Chief. Like an ouroboros, her jokes consume themselves until no one knows whether they were ever funny. But they are.

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