Riddle me this: “A box without hinges, key or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid”. Another egg question is whether it preceded the chicken or vice versa. Dinosaurs were laying eggs millennia before chickens existed. Who was first? Who cares? As long as there are plenty of eggs, we’re ahead of the game.
We’ve foraged eggs longer than we’ve kept records. The Chinese farmed ducks and geese more than 6,000 years ago, then around 3200 BC someone in India noted that the hens whose eggs had been taken, laid more. So began the domestic production of eggs. Egyptians were fond of pelican eggs; the Romans loved peacock eggs; Mandarins enjoyed pigeon eggs and the Phoenicians were partial to the average three-pound ostrich egg. The Roman chef, Apicus, is credited with inventing the baked custard, combining, milk, honey and eggs, though he may have only been the first to write it down. Eggs became the staple thickener for custards, ragouts and sauces and were later used to clarify coffee and soups. These oval spheres were smuggled to a Medici grandmother as safe sustenance when she was imprisoned by the Borgias. It’s a good thing that eggs are so plentiful. For Pope Clement VI’s 1344 coronation, cooks used 39,000 eggs to make 50,000 celebratory tarts. And some say we are the age of excess.
Eggs have symbolized renewal in cultures as diverse as Persians and European Celts who gave red-dyed eggs as gifts at the spring equinox. The symbolism was adopted by the Christians in celebration of the resurrection at Easter. Elegantly decorated ostrich eggs are still suspended in Coptic Christian and Greek Orthodox churches. Iranian wedding couples traditionally exchange eggs. A 17th C French bride ritually broke an egg entering her new home. French aristocracy had their coat of arms painted on gift Easter eggs. Russian aristocracy upped the ante, commissioning precious jeweled eggs of Faberge as Easter gifts.
Boiled hard and soft, poached, coddled, fried, scrambled, baked, deviled, dyed, brined, preserved, omelet-ed, frittata-ed and soufflé-ed, the egg is demonstrably versatile. Likewise, the egg is featured in breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The omelet, a light, yellow cloud of egg, is a perfect lunch. A soufflé may be thought by some as too, too fussy, until they’ve had the pleasure. The incredible edible egg indeed.
The egg, in all it’s forms, is the world’s most complete protein nourishment. Having weathered the slanders of early health pundits and their Chicken Little cholesterol warnings, eggs are once again considered to be an excellent food source. Appropriately there are a goodly number of egg recipes on our website, including Egg Salad, Etc., Muffin Frittatas, Feta Basil Omelet, and Oven Frittata. Egging you on, the recipe today is a Basque Pipérade.