Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

An Egg Is Not Just for Easter

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

An Egg Is Not Just for Easter

Article excerpt

The egg is one of those everyday miracles that one has to be very drunk, or feeling unusually thoughtful, to appreciate. So common is this humble foodstuff that we rarely give it a second thought. After all, eggs is just eggs, as the saying almost goes.

But spring, when even the hardest of hearts can't help but leap at the flash of sunlight on daffodils, is also the egg's moment of glory as a symbol of new life. Like plant seeds, or cow's milk, the egg is designed to support new life on its tremulous journey to independence. It takes just 21 days to transform into a cheeping, breathing creature, which, if female, is already in possession of several thousand microscopic egg cells of its own.

Along with its many other fabulous talents, the egg is a nutritional powerhouse, although only when cooked; laboratory animals fed on raw eggs lose weight. (Don't tell Rocky Balboa.) This impeccably packaged source of protein, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats and amino acids is also astonishingly versatile in the kitchen, the key to both the lightest of meringues and the richest of yellow custards. Perhaps this is why eggs are the first thing many of us learn to cook-a process that can last a lifetime. The great chef Escoffier boasted knowing over 300 ways to prepare an egg, and would audition new recruits by asking them to make him an omelette; while lightly scrambled eggs were James Bond's breakfast of choice, ideally served "with pink champagne (Taittinger) and low music".

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Our taste in eggs is culturally specific. Americans like their eggshells white; these days we, along with most of Europe, prefer brown-or, in upmarket grocers, eau de nil-it all depends on breed. (Older readers will remember that up until the 196os white eggs were common in this country.) The colour of the contents, however, is down to diet: the golden yolk of a corn-fed bird may not be better for us, but it looks more handsome on the plate. …

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