City Bites

EGGVILLE: Breakfast with Urban Element’s Carley Schelck

Welcome to Eggville! In this series created for City Bites, I will attempt to test out some of my unscientific theories over breakfast with icons of the city’s food scene. The question: What does the way we eat our eggs say about us? I am also hoping to discover some of the city’s hidden greasy spoons and old-school diners while getting to know more about our food-world personalities. Each guest — be it a chef, farmer, or restaurant dishwasher — will choose their favourite breakfast joint and walk me through the choices, preferences, and rituals surrounding their morning meal.

The Eater: Carley Schelck, proprietor and culinary events director of the Urban Element. It’s worth noting that Carley is eating for two these days; she is expecting her first child in May.

The Place: Rather than picking an old-school diner, we settle on Stoneface Dolly’s because it serves Carley’s favourite locally-made hot sauce, Chamomile Desjardins’s Schooner, which is made with hot peppers, blueberries, lemon thyme, and lemon. “It gives you heat but it’s also tasty,” she says.

The Order: Dolly’s breakfast comes with bacon (Carley selected peameal), a slice of buttered molasses brown bread, and hash brown potatoes. “Tater tots have their place, but this is the kind of potatoes I like,” she says. She orders scrambled eggs but says, depending on her mood, she sometimes goes for poached eggs or over hard. Only scrambled eggs get the hot sauce treatment.

The Method: It’s obvious that Carley has a genuine zest for eating and looks most at home behind a plate of delicious food. She sprinkles her eggs judiciously with salt and pepper and then hot sauce (never adding more later) before she begins to tackle the elements on her plate with proper knife and fork etiquette. She starts by removing the tiny bits of sweet peppers from the potatoes and goes for the crunchy caramelized bits first. She scoops up some potatoes with a bit of egg, followed by a bit of bacon and a bite of toast. “I like all the components in my mouth at the same time,” she explains. “It’s umami.” It becomes apparent that the plate is compartmentalized; each item is isolated from the others — in fact, nothing touches anything else until she is ready to combine them. It goes around like this with each part of the breakfast diminishing at an equal rate.

The Analysis: With food tied closely to mood and a desire to mix things up, Carley’s tastes aren’t easy to pin down. Someone who likes a good runny poached egg and a buttery rubbery over hard egg is someone who knows pleasure comes in different forms: and they don’t want to miss out. Meanwhile, judging by the appearance of her plate, there are limits to her appetite for chaos: she requires a sense symmetry. For Carley, even a simple breakfast is treated like a mini-culinary event that requires careful coordination. But ultimately, it’s about the pleasure of good food and fun so I suspect she thrives when there’s a bit of a “wild card” element thrown in the mix; a dash of  the unexpected in the order. She goes out of her way to fill her life with authentic homemade flavours and top-quality ingredients. Judging by her breakfast-eating bravado, I suspect she’s the type of person that is game to try almost anything but is equally satisfied with the simple comforts that come from sticking with the tried and true.