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November 24, 2010

The Incredible Edible Egg

Margaret Maron


DownloadedFile I like eggs.  Scrambled, over-easy, poached on buttered toast, fancied up into Eggs Benedict or complicted omelets.

Gathering eggs was one of my favorite childhood chores, even when it involved climbing up into the rafters to the nest of a hen with Alpine tendencies, or reaching under a broody hen who wanted to keep her eggs for future chicks and was ready DownloadedFile_2 to peck me for my insolence, or even after finding a black snake who had slithered into a nest for his own tasty snack.  (We never killed black snakes because we didn’t begrudge an occasional egg if he kept down the mice and rats.) A warm brown egg fresh from the hen’s body seemed like something of a miracle.

Over the years, eggs have gone in and out of favor with health food gurus.  First they were considered a perfect source of protein.  Then they were banned for high cholesterol.  Now they seem to be back in favor again.  I myself never stopped eating them.  Not every day, but certainly two or three times a week.  But I am fussy about them. I want them just so—white firm, yolk runny if fried. Soft and moist Images_3 if scrambled..  Over the years, I’ve learned that an egg is probably the one food that people are outspokenly particular about.  I’ve quit trying to do anything but a communal soft scramble for houseguests.  Those who want theirs fried are welcome to my skillet and spatula.

The last time we were in England, we ate in a college dining room with the rest of the faculty and students.  The sides were delicious.  The scrambled eggs were as dry and rubbery as an innertube.  After a long weekend, we 599906 moved on to a four-bedroom coaching inn in a small town near Colchester.  The manager and his wife, the cook, had quit the day before and a new manager had been specialed in. We were the only guests. Dennis was nice and pleasant, but no cook and that first morning, his eggs were just like the ones in Cambridge, even though I made a special point of saying “Soft scramble, please.”

Next morning, we were still the only guests in residence and I told my husband I was going to ask to make our eggs myself.  Horrified, he told me I certainly couldn’t.

Nevertheless, when Dennis poured our coffee and asked how we’d like our eggs, to my husband’s embarrassment, I said, “Do you mind if I cook them myself?”

“Certainly, madam.  This way.”

Images_2 As I followed him through the swinging doors to the kitchen, I heard my husband call, “I'll have two over-easy!”

Out in the kitchen, Dennis wanted to give me an electric mixer to beat the eggs to death.  I declined.  (I just stir them gently in a well-buttered pan.  No milk.)  After a bit of back and forth, when I didn’t see the utensil I needed for my Images_7 husband’s eggs, we agreed that a spatula was also a “lifter” and one was produced from a nearby drawer.

With the tomatoes and English bacon and hot buttered toast, that breakfast was the best we’d had since arriving in England.

Images_4 Next morning, another couple were there at breakfast and I was worried that Dennis wouldn’t want me in the kitchen.  Happily, he poured coffee and asked if I again wanted to cook my own and just as happily, I headed for the swinging doors.  But not before I saw the eyebrow that proper English lady raised to her mate, who was rolling his own eyes in disapproval of the eccentric American.

“They said they liked my eggs,” Dennis told me.  (Well, they would, wouldn’t they?)

What about you?  Which foods are you fussy about?



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This brought back such good memories, Margaret! I am still proud of the incubator I made for the baby chicks we ordered from the feed store, a styrofoam cooler with a hole cut out of the top and a low-watt light bulb. It worked, and I had so much fun raising those Rhode Island Red chicks who grew to be wonderful laying hens.

What I'm fussy about, though, is my coffee. Each cup must be individually brewed double+ strength. I also love the pressed coffee as they serve it in Denmark.

PS: I found the eggs at Oxford superior to the eggs at "the other place."

As kids we always made my mom eggs and toast for Mother's Day, I would always struggle to make eggs over easy, didn't always succeed. She ate her eggs smothered in ketchup, gross.

I like eggs and often eat a dozen in a week. Soft boiled, over easy or poached. I love eggs and spend the money to get free run eggs with yolks that are nearly orange. I may just have eggs when I get in the morning, with yam hash browns.

I now order mine: scrambled, wet.

I like ketchup on mine too - but it has to be Heinz!

I have tried to like eggs but would much rather have them in my pastries. My mosy recent adventures involved The Guy Scramble at the Friendly Toast in Cambridge, MA (delicious even with eggs!) and making veggie fritatas at my house. I have to say, the first time around, I can eat it but trying to reheat leftovers is not so good.

I guess I'm fussiest about my fish but honestly I'm a pretty picky eater...

I'm a picky eater, but I like my scrambled eggs and omelets dry and my eggs fried on both side with a little yolk. I always have to have a side of bacon next to them.

Scrambled well, onions and cheddar tossed in at the last moment, a dash of Tabasco or Louisiana 'sauce piquante' on top, toast, coffee.

For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, sheer heaven all the way around!

Like pizza, the perfect food...:)

Ah, William! You can come make breakfast at my house anytime. Onions & cheddar & a dab of Texas Pete!

Reine, that was so clever. I keep wanting another small flock, but there's one next door so we do get those bright orange yolks from free-ranging chickens w/o their droppings all over the place.

Elizabeth, fish would be the food I'm second pickiest about. Must NOT be overcooked for me to enjoy.

I'm with William! Eggs are a nutritional bargain, and so, so versatile. I've yet to find an egg I didn't like. We keep thinking we'd like to get some layers, but we don't have anyone to feed them while we're at the farm, and the farm has too many chicken-eating critters. Someday, though.

My mother made us hard-cooked egg sandwiches when we were kids: mayo, sliced eggs, a little salt and pepper. This is still my very favorite lunch sandwich, although now I use homemade whole wheat bread instead of white "balloon bread", and usually add leaf lettuce to it. And fresh-ground pepper, yum.

The food I'm most particular about is chocolate. It has to be dark and rich, and don't even think about trying to give me that white stuff. It's no more chocolate than I am a Vulcan.

I agree--eggs and fish are my two pickiest food. And I really like to have the eggs with toast or something starchy. But my coffee must be very strong with a lot of milk and a lot of sweet--light sweet crude, it has been called.

And I love The Friendly Toast in Portsmouth--mojito milkshakes, wonderful bread, wonderful everything.

What a lovely post to read in the morning, Margaret!

Mojito milkshakes? The mind boggles, Cornelia.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I suppose, being a vegetarian (thus, a dull eater) I am picky about salad. If the lettuce has even the tiniest bit of brown anywhere, the whole salad is suspect.

Margaret, you brought back memories of me being 14 and spending the summer with my newly-married sister on Long Island. She married an Irishman, and for some reason, the smell of the eggs frying in the morning was divine, nothing like the frying-egg smell we had back in Nebraska. Was it the local butter? Fresh eggs? Cast iron fry pan? What did it have to do with the Irish?

So many mysteries.

I don't care for eggs.---There, I said it. I think it comes from my childhood and the horrible black rooster that chased me every time I went into the barn yard. Hated that bird!

But I'm fussy about bread. No sawdusty factory bread, no grocery store "bakery" bread, no awful stale white stuff at restaurants. No, if I'm going to indulge in bread it needs to be a fresh, crisp-crusted, handmade bread with real weight, honest wheat flavor with all the subtle textures and hints of salt and grain that good bread should be. Aaaah....

I love eggs. Scrambled, but not too wet, not too dry; over easy, runny yolk; hard boiled, deviled, omeletted, egg salad sandwiches (Karen, your sliced egg one sounds yummy). I don't like sunny side up with the later of slime on top. My husband orders his fried eggs "dead" - not a speck of runny yolk in sight or he's outta there.

I'm sorry, but ketchup on eggs is a travesty. And yes Karen, so is white chocolate.

As for coffee, very strong with half and half or cream. Don't come near me with skim milk or that powdered stuff. And no sugar, no flavors. If I want hazelnut, I'll eat some.

I love the spatula being identified as a "lifter". I've never heard that one before. Speaking of eating breakfast overseas, we stayed in a series of B&Bs in Ireland. One woman owner was so proud that she had attended college in Central NY, near where my husband and I are originally from. She decided to make us some "American pancakes" as a treat. What actually came out, were crepes. Yummy, but bearing no resemblance to what you get at IHOP.

I'm picky about butter - as in: if it's not butter, I'll do without.

I am pick about everything I cook. Pizza, I am picky about what I eat, so it tends to be pizza that I make.

I worked for Steak n' Shake, third shifts for about two years. I used to make between five and 20 dozen eggs a day. Pancakes, breakfast meats, everything. DW and the princesses love that I cook eggs to order. The current favorite is sauteed spinach, provolone, and Tabasco all rolled in a tortilla. Yummy.

If you want fluffy light pancakes use seltzer water to mix with the dry ingredients, or a 50/50 mix of milk and seltzer. Remember, I used to cook two to six pounds of pancake mix a day too.

I also worked for Pastries of Denmark. I delivered wedding cakes. Karen, we would go through two or three 5 lb. Ambrosia Chocolate bars a week. Everything was the real deal. Real AA Butter, whipping cream, eggs, fresh fruits, and chocolate. Some of the recipes were mind boggling. Butter cream for frosting: 6 lbs. of butter, 6 lbs. of confectioners sugar, mix. Add shortening to cut the richness. Chocolate ganacshe, needed to be stirred for five minutes every hour for four hours.

Here are some of the cakes I set up: http://theportmans.name/index.php/component/option,com_zoom/Itemid,52/catid,58/

This post reminds me of Patricia Polacco's beautiful children's book Thundercake-the part when the little girl has to gather eggs from Mean Nellie Peck Hen.

I love scrambled eggs and just happened to marry a man who makes the fluffiest, most delicious scrambled eggs I've ever tasted.

I love eggs cooked in many ways.
One of my favorites is an IHOP spinach and mushroom omelette. Very delicious.
Egg sandwiches are great and scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa sauce.
Margaret I love the English breakfast with the tomatoes on the side and the breakfast meats.
As a matter of fact I love to try a lot of things so I am grateful for everything that I get to eat.

OH, I love eggs. Love love love. And they are so intersting!

You can scramble them, which mixes up the yolk and white and it works and they're soft. Or you can hard boil them, which keeps white and yolk separate, and they're hard. Or frying--now the parts are separate but together. And they taste different.

Or! You can separate the yolks out and make hollandaise, yellow and saucy, but when the white is separated, it can be beaten into stiff meringue.

How does that happen? Pre-ty amazing.

Ok I've just discovered, after reading this, that I am plain old super picky! I have to have my eggs and my fish thoroughly cooked, no grocery store coffee, dark chocolate only, steak Medium Rare, french fries super crunchy, mashed potatoes need to be lumpy and lots of butter and salt or what is the point...

I remember helping my grandmother gather eggs when she had chickens. My grandparents had an open coal bin underneath the house, right next to the chicken coop. The chickens used to roost in the coal bin and I had to crawl up and under to get eggs she couldn't reach. They used to squawk and try to peck at my hands. I remember having to watch out for the snakes as well...:) But some of my favorite memories are when the hawks tried to get my grandmother's chickens, and my 5-foot tall grandmother went running out, chambering a shotgun that was as big as she was, and blasting away at the hawks. I thought she was so powerful

My brother told me about collecting eggs at my uncle's farm. Uncle Ev told him there was a tin can by the door of the coop to use, so my brother dutifully used the can to scoop up the eggs and then carefully dump them in the basket. Our uncle nearly fell down laughing when he saw what he was doing . . . because (answer later*)
My friend just taught me to scramble eggs in the microwave, whisked with a bit of milk, two minutes on high -- perfect!

* the can was to be placed over the hen's head so she wouldn't peck . . .

I am picky about my eggs...soft scrambled and over 'hard' (as in broken yolks)...had a nasty experience as a kid with a sunny side up that was-um-undercooked. I also like my food hot if it's supposed to be hot and cold if it's supposed to be cold( or at least cool). My pizza crust has to be thin and crisp and there has to be cheese! Lots of it :o) And, wuss that I am, clams and oysters? In chowder and stew...never raw!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day everyone, and be careful on Black Friday...it's a jungle out there!

I grew up in an apartment in an "iffy" neighborhood, so to read that so many of you grew up gathering eggs on a regular basis makes me feel we grew up on different planets!

I avoided eggs for many years because of cholesterol concerns; however, when eggs stopped getting such bad press I started eating them again. It hasn't had an adverse effect on my cholesterol level, thankfully! Somewhere along the line, though, I have lost the egg-cooking skills I had when I was younger. I prefer them over-easy but I sure can't make them that way! I used to scramble them "just right" but can't do that anymore either. You DO NOT want to see my omelet efforts! On Sunday mornings a bunch of us meet for breakfast at a family-run restaurant in the neighborhood, and that is where I can get eggs cooked exactly right!

My mom was a firm believer in having a hot breakfast before we went to school (cereal was for weekends only). I was about 6 and I must have smarted off to her about how she cooked my eggs. I got the "well then do it yourself". So, I cooked my own breakfast from then on. I got to be pretty good with the whole egg thing.

My grandmother rasied chickens and my Grandpa raised bees. I dreaded the days I was picked to go get the eggs. I had to go through the bee hives to get to the chicken coop, then got my hands pecked to death by the hens. Not fun.

I just love this story!
I wish you could be with Donald and I when we order scrambled eggs in a restaurant and they come back NOT scrambled at all. People in restaurants don't seem to know the difference between "scrambled" and "throw 'em on a grill & give 'em a stir." aargh. Yes, I am picky about my eggs

Margaret you crack (yuk yuk) me up!!

I'm not named PICKard for nothing. Eggs, coffee, toast, pancakes, picky about breakfast more than any other meal. I shudder at any hint of a runny egg white and at pasty pancakes. Oooew. Love Tabasco on scrambled. Never have paid a bit of attention to the Egg Eeyores. My own body tells me when I've had sufficient eggs for a while, thank you, by letting me know it doesn't care for any more.

I make wonderful cheesy eggs. I do.

Perfect fried egg for me: Brown and crunchy around the edges and the bottom, firm white above, runny, but not too runny, yolk. I do not ask for this at restaurants, lol.

Such fun stories! Mojito milkshakes and seltzer pancakes. Maybe we should talk about "sprited" cooking sometime. But I think most of us seem to agree that we want the real thing: real eggs, real butter, real chocolate, real bread, real coffee, fresh greens. I'd rather have a tiny taste of real than all-I-can-eat imitation. In moderation, how can any of it hurt us?

Margaret, you are so right about "real" food. Why would anyone prefer to eat chemicals? Ick.

Speaking of "spirited" foods, I just slid a pie into the oven: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan. Oh, yeah.

I cast another vote for really good dark chocolate. White chocolate may be used for decorative purposes only!

I like my eggs over easy with the whites completely cooked and the yolks very runny, I figure if I can make them at home that way, why can't a restaurant! I am also very picky about omelettes, can't make them worth a darn myself but if you are ever in Orlando, go the House of Blues Gospel Brunch, made to order omelette goodness.

I am also picky about getting real peanut butter, none of this mass market crap with sugar, lard etc in it. Peanut butter should be made with peanuts and a bit of salt.

Gaylin, you and I could have a happy breakfast together, and then a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. I like Smucker's Natural Peanut butter. Do you know a better one?

Nancy, I can't get Smucker's products in Canada (a travesty, I know). The peanut butter I love is Earth's Choice, I get it at Whole Foods.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies:
1 cup natural peanut butter
2/3 cup sugar (white/brown whatever)
1 egg

Stir until it forms a dough. Roll dough balls, mark with a fork. 11 minutes at 325.
Yum. Oh, you can add 1/3 cup chocolate chips for extra goodness. Makes 24.

Gaylin, thanks! I'll try the pbutter and the cookies.

Nancy I'm with you crisp around the edges, firm but yolk slightly runny. Mom always fried them in a cast iron skillet in bacon grease. For years we didn't have a pop-up toaster so mom always made toast in the skillet too - regular and cinnamon. Makes me want to go in the kitchen and fix some eggs and skillet toast right now.

I'm not much of a cook but I do appreciate a good egg whether scrambled (slightly wet),fried or in an omelet. I rarely fix them for breakfast unless I have guests but do fix them for lunch or supper on occasion. I cannot abide a "runny" egg with the whites not done. Yuck!

We got our start with chickens when my grandfather gave me and some cousins baby chicks for Easter. My dad built a small coop for them. A few years later we bought 3 acres and moved to the country. We raised chickens,chuckars (game birds), and pheasants. I still have a scar on one hand from a hen who did not appreciate me taking her eggs.

My dad took a fried egg sandwich with him for lunch every day.

Donna, my mom and I have decided to fix bacon and eggs for supper tonight. Gosh, I wonder what put that idea in my head.

"chuckar". . .a new word for me today.

Eggs, not really my thing. But guacamole? You bet. The avocados must be ripe, the guac a bit chunky. And roast beef (or any meat for that matter). If you're going to cook it to death, why bother? Yup, I'm from Texas....

I had to look up the spelling and I still typed it wrong. It is Chukar without the extra c. I don't remember them tasting all that good but we did eat them. I was never fond of pheasant either. I remember the pheasant coop had to have a mesh covering or they would fly out over the fence.

I do remember how good the fresh chicken eggs always tasted. It was always fun when you'd find a double yolk.

Ian Fleming's recipe for Scrambled Eggs:

12 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
5-6 oz. of fresh butter.

Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well. In a small copper (or heavy bottomed saucepan) melt four oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk.

While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove the pan from heat, add rest of butter and continue whisking for half a minute, adding the while finely chopped chives or fines herbes.

Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittinger) and low music.

William, that sounds divine.
Karen, the pie sounds decadent -- recipe please??
Extra thanks for all the chickens who give us eggs . . .

William - I want eggs at your house!

William, what a luscious recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Keep safe, and eat well.

Karen, that pie sounds so wonderful..I will be awaiting a sample...

Diane, you and Nancy like your fried eggs just like my husband does. I like my whites less crisp. And nothing cooks like a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Better than Teflon any day.

Gaylin, I'm going to have to try those peanut butter cookies. Sounds as if it would run all over the cookie sheet, but I'm game.

Karen, I just gave my fruitcake anoter bourbon bath. It should be good and ripe by Christmas.

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