The first thing I was allowed to do in the kitchen was to taste things. Long before I was trusted with a knife, I would stand on tiptoes and slurp sauce from a wooden spoon. As I got older, I was put on vegetables, learning how to chop an onion and dice a pepper. I wore my first small burn from sputtering bacon fat like a badge of honor, and I followed my dad in draping a dishtowel over my shoulder. When I finally got to make things myself, each dish became a point of pride, and I dream of someday turning my favorites into a cookbook.

As any good cookbook should, mine will start with a recipe that can serve as a foundation for future culinary success. This is the first page:

Use a frying pan and turn the gas to medium-low. If you cook eggs at a high temperature, the proteins tense up like an introvert in the spotlight, and you’ll get crisp egg whites and raw yolks. Some people like this contrast in texture, but I like mine cooked with a more delicate touch.

Once the pan is warm, add roughly a tablespoon of olive oil. I don’t use butter even though it tastes better because I like to get my healthy fats in early. But be warned: don’t let the olive oil get too hot. Olive oil has a low smoke point so I suggest watching it like a hawk.

It’s time to crack the eggs when the olive oil smoothly coats the pan and shimmers just a little. I crack them directly into the pan because I like to live my life on the edge. You want the eggs to lightly sizzle.

When the whites are mostly cooked, it’s time to get serious. We’re at The Flip, the make or yolk-break moment. I like my eggs runny but not too runny, which means the top of the yolk has to be slightly cooked. I’ve experimented with various methods of achieving this. Some people put a lid on the pan to bathe the top of the yolk in steam, but this method overcooks the bottom portion of the yolk. Instead, we’re going to do The Flip.

The 4-Step Flip:

Get your spatula.

If you’re making multiple eggs, separate any whites that have run together.

Lift up an edge of the egg and swiftly shimmy the eggs onto the spatula.

Flip it GENTLY

After The Flip, I tenderly nudge each yolk with my finger (or the edge of the spatula if you’re following Health Code) to see how they’re hanging. You want them to be bouncy and responsive. If you messed up Step 4, which I’ve done many many times, you might want to throw some cheese on it and make an egg sandwich, but that’s another recipe.

If you didn’t mess up Step 4, congratulations! Welcome to the Salt & Pepper level. Season your eggs to your liking. Personally, I like a lot of pepper and a little salt.

Over the past four years, I’ve made my way through omelets, poached, soft-boiled, and now I’m on fried. Not every egg comes out perfect. In fact, many are total disasters. Disasters come with the kitchen territory, like when I tried to make brownies with coffee grounds instead of instant coffee (a known flavor enhancer), and the best response I got from my normally affable family was “interesting,” accompanied by poorly-hid grimaces. But mistakes happen, and the next time I served them something they didn’t hold the prior disaster against me.

Afterall, cooking is like science. In fact, it’s the best kind of science because I get to eat the results (when they’re good), instead of having to write them up in a Lab Report. As for what recipe I’ll fixate on next, who knows? I’m still trying to master The 4-Step Flip.