It was April, and I was having trouble feeding myself after a breakup. You know how it goes: it wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat, I just sort of forgot how days worked? Like, what is a schedule, what is time, when does one put food in ones mouth if another human being is not there to share in the act, etc. To combat the issue I decided to focus on easy to make comfort foods. Enter: the soft boiled egg.
Soft boiled eggs have always been my comfort food. As a little kid, I loved Sunday morning breakfasts when my mom would present me with a perfect egg in a little egg holder and I would carefully cut off the top to reveal a creamy yellow yolk, perfect for dunking my toast. As an adult, I never bother to look at a brunch menu, no matter where my friends and I are swapping hungover stories on a Sunday morning – I know I always want a benedict with expertly poached eggs. If an egg doesn’t have a soft yolk that can swirl luxuriously with the rest of the food on my plate when I slice into it, I don’t want it.
I don’t want to brag, but I am kind of incredible at making The Perfect Soft Boiled Egg. My method is simple. Bring a pot of water to boil, lower the heat so it’s somewhere between a strong simmer and a low rolling boil, carefully submerge your egg, immediately set a timer for six minutes, prepare a bowl of freezing cold water (use ice cubes), as soon as the timer goes off take the egg out of the pot and plunge it into the ice bath, let it sit for a minute or so, peel, plate, take a photo or video for Instagram, eat, enjoy.
You can make fun of me for the Instagram part, but I’m not going to apologize. Like many of us, I’m especially attached to that particular social media app, and while that attachment is a complex issue, the fact of the matter is that usually Instagram brings me joy. The concerns people voice about Instagram are extremely valid – it’s a time suck, you get lost scrolling, it only highlights the good shit, it makes everyone feel left out and bad, it censors nipples and sex workers and specific hashtags and was obviously never made with queer liberation in mind.
But – hear me out – there’s a lot of good to be found on the app, too. Some of my favorite solo queer art projects live on Instagram. I don’t know how it is for straight people, but I find that genuine connection can happen on the app. I’m forever delighted by the seemingly random connections I see on queer Instagram all the time – there’s honestly nothing better than looking at a new friend’s queer meme account and seeing that the first three likes are: a person I went to high school with who wasn’t out when we were both 16 but is now a queer fat activist, my crush from last A-Camp, and a queer femme DJ from Portland. If we think of Instagram as a space – a city, a country, a bar, I don’t know, whatever your heart desires – then watching all different queer folks interact organically in this space is kind of like watching a community form in real time. And that doesn’t even cover all the DMs we’re all sliding into privately. As a community-minded queer millennial, it’s easy for me to see the beauty here.
So when I was endeavoring to feed myself more regularly post-breakup, taking photos and videos of my soft boiled eggs and posting them to my Instagram story seemed only natural. It was fun. Instagram’s story medium was the perfect avenue for my food porn – I didn’t necessarily want egg after egg after egg hanging out on my main page, but stories are short and silly and weird and disappear after 24 hours. I received feedback almost instantly – soft eggs are beautiful, and folks were naturally drawn to them without any intentional effort on my part – and I’m human. I like praise and interaction, especially when I’m in a weird vulnerable volatile headspace.
I posted my first intentional piece of #SoftEggContent on April 10: a still image of two perfectly runny yolks dripping all over toast covered in leftover maror from my Passover Seder, with an animated image of a chick popping out of an egg and a simple text statement: “I think making perfectly soft boiled eggs is my kink?” The next day, on April 11, I made more soft boiled eggs and posted them to my story again. This time the text read: “Another day another perfect soft boiled egg situation // I’m serious I could eat this every single day until I die and be very happy.”
And with that, a spell was cast.
I quickly realized that a still image didn’t really capture the true potential of #SoftEggContent – videos were a much better format. My first #SoftEggContent video has Janelle Monae’s “Screwed” playing in the background and the words “breakfast at 3pm” written in pink cursive across the bottom of the screen. I cut into the egg and the yolk drenches the contents beneath it.
The true magic began when people started creating their own #SoftEggContent and tagging me in it. At first it was just my friends. Then it spread to friend’s of friends. Now it includes total strangers who share no mutuals with me and I’m legitimately like, how the heck did you find out about this weird hashtag and decide to participate?! Instagram allows you to add a post to your own story if someone tags you in it, and so I started sharing all kinds of #SoftEggContent, not just original eggs filmed in my own home. The feature to add a post to your story is glitchy though, so sometimes I wouldn’t be able to share a particularly good video. This made me sad, so I solved the problem myself – in these instances I started DMing people and asking them to download the videos and text them to me. Sometimes I was friends with these people and we already had each others’ numbers, sometimes they were total fucking strangers who lived across the country. But everyone felt good about texting me #SoftEggContent!
I got busy in July and a heatwave hit Portland so I didn’t have time or inclination to be in the kitchen so much, and I worried my #SoftEggContent would dwindle. It did not. I receive anywhere from one to five #SoftEggContent posts a day, and I post almost all of them. “I can’t look at an egg anymore without thinking of you,” Autostraddle Design & Business Director Sarah Sarwar told me one evening. “I paused an ENORMOUS and VERY GRAND meal to take this video and everyone was like ‘what are you doing’ and I was like ‘YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS,'” my friend Liz wrote me after submitting a particularly gorgeous #SoftEggContent video all the way from Prague.
Why did we all want to share this thing? What made some videos so appealing? Why…are we like this?
It feels really nice to make a connection with another human being. Are Instagram connections real? I don’t know, is anything real?! Fifteen years ago my mother warned me never to give my real name to anyone I met “on the web.” Today we Venmo humans we’ve never met $12 and our home addresses so they can send us zines that reflect our queer experiences back into our lonely hearts.
#SoftEggContent hit a nerve with my modest Instagram following this summer. Why, exactly? I’m honestly not entirely sure, but I have some suspicions. It’s weird, yes, and goofy and silly, mmhmm, but also, maybe…we all just want to feed ourselves and each other and connect about it? It’s intimate. I basically started this trend by whispering into the void, hey, I’m having a hard time. Making myself soft boiled eggs brings me some joy. Join me in my kitchen. Join me in my sadness. Look.
And the void responded. Hey, I’m also having a hard time, but look, I made myself breakfast. Hi, my partner brought me breakfast in bed. I’m on a date and we got ramen. I’m having a terrible day but look at these grits and poached eggs. Have you tried shakshouka? I feel better, look at this quail egg. Wow, can I have that recipe? Wow, this is kind of sexual? Wow, I’m a vegan but the joy you clearly get from these eggs is bringing me joy! Wow, I’ve never met you but you inspired me to make a soft boiled egg and I love it! Wow, did you know Chrissy Teigen is also creating #SoftEggContent on Instagram? (20+ humans DMed me about that one, and honestly I was so flattered and Chrissy Teigen, if you ever wanna collab on #SoftEggContent, I’m available for that!) Wow wow wow wow wow, etc.
As my mood improved this spring and summer, my soft eggs mirrored that. What started out as a documentation of my ability to feed myself even when I felt like shit took a sexy turn as I stepped back into my body and my confidence and got kind of, ahem, thirsty. A bare egg on a plate at 9pm with Be Steadwell’s “Sometimes” playing in the background as I cut into it is a really different mood than Hayley Kiyoko’s “Curious” playing while I excitedly exclaim to my housemate that I made my first successful poached eggs and the bright yellow yolk makes its way across the screen.
Multiple people have teased me that #SoftEggContent is extremely sexual, a thirst trap of its own, and I will own that, yes. But I don’t think #SoftEggContent is inherently sexual, or even inherently queer. I mean I don’t think it was – I know it wasn’t – when it first got born. We create things by naming them. I posted this weird personal content on the internet in April and a bunch of queers said, “yes.”
#SoftEggContent is queer and personal and sexual and meaningful but only because we say it is. The moment we collectively decide it doesn’t matter, it won’t. But I do think queers, with our quiet but insistent desire to connect with one another against all odds and our commitment to embracing weird shit, are the perfect community to take #SoftEggContent and keep it going, possibly forever.
The truth is, at this point #SoftEggContent has taken on a life of its own. I was once the vessel to bring it into the world, but that no longer feels true. Now #SoftEggContent is shared amongst us. It belongs to the people. It can be whatever we want it to be. We can connect however we want to.
I wanna connect on Instagram over #SoftEggContent. See ya there.
Check out the full highlight reels of #SoftEggContent on Instagram: @vanessatakesphotos – Soft Eggs, I and Soft Eggs, II. And if you create your own #SoftEggContent, tag me so I can see and rejoice! Or don’t! Whatever you do, enjoy your yolks and enjoy your niche communities!