1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 x 400-gram can of chopped tomatoes
2 medium eggs
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan
salt to taste
To make the purgatory you will first and foremost need fire. There is nobody willing, or able perhaps, to give an exact account of the punishments that await the eggs there, but all agree upon the presence of a burning hot flame.
Put your pan upon that flame and fry the garlic and chilli flakes in olive oil for a minute. The garlic and chilli will pique your tongue, and by extension your heart, while you imagine the pain the souls of the little eggs will soon endure. Add the tomatoes and some salt of the earth, then heat until they resemble a bubbling conflagration.
Crack two eggs into the sauce. Released from their physical host, no longer latent energy, their souls will burst free into the cleansing tomato-based fire. You must now pray for your eggs; they cannot pray for themselves so the living must do it for them. The eggs must be in a state of impermanence for the prayers to work but luckily eggs always are – constant and temporary, not alive, not dead, a host for potential, for what might become.
(If you are making this dish during the Middle Ages, and happen to be rich, instead of praying yourself you can make your eggs’ stay in purgatory shorter by paying your local church to hold a mass for them.)
The pan serves as a vessel for in-between, its cargo not condemned to hell but not yet in heaven. The eggs themselves have been saved, they have no morality now. We pray for them to lessen their pain and to expedite their ascension to bliss, the scores of their shells settled. Some believe the pan is closer to hell than heaven, others that it occupies the realm in which the sins of the eggs took place. There are even some who believe the pan to exist in Sicily.
The last step in the preparation is to sprinkle the dish all over with parmesan, then cover with a lid so the eggs can be purified. To transform the egg, symbol of the universe, eternal and immortal, we must combine the elemental trinity of salt, sulphur and mercury. Parmesan adds extra saltiness to the first aspect, which pertains to consciousness and wisdom. The second aspect, sulphur, signifies the spirit of life – it is present in the heat of the flame, the chilli and the sun-like yolk. Finally, mercury, the water aspect and trickiest of characters, ambiguous like the egg – he is each part and the whole. He is the fiery tomato sauce of the underworld, the domed lid of the heavens, between heaven and earth, male and female, the great circle of rebirth.
Keep checking on the eggs to see if they have transfigured into a pearly mass with golden yellow suns. Their bubbling little albumen souls have been laid bare, transparent – no sins could be hidden. Now they are turned white with the glow of redemption. The fiery tomato sauce has punished the eggs such that their debts have been repaid and their restoration is complete. The duration is indeterminable, it is not for us to know or decide. Only God can judge when recompense has been made.
The time is up.
Danai Anesiadou, “Don’t commit suicide just because you are afraid of death” installation view. Photo Andy Keate.
Eggs in Purgatory is an ancient dish with numerous variants and relations around the Mediterranean. Its origins are lost to history, although many regions (Naples, for instance) lay claim to it. Danai Anesiadou’s installation “Don’t commit suicide just because you are afraid of death”, part of Nottingham Contemporary’s Alien Encounters exhibition, makes repeated use of images of the dish and can be seen until 31 December 2015.