The Brilliant Egg

“A hen’s egg is, quite simply, a work of art,

a masterpiece of design and construction

with, it has to be said, brilliant packaging.”

Delia Smith, How to Cook

I took my eleven-year-old grandson out to dinner a few weeks ago, and as we considered the mouth-watering dishes on the menu (Mexican), our talk turned to favorite foods (Mexican or otherwise). I said I had lots of favorites, but there’s one thing I could eat every day of the week: eggs. My grandson wisely pointed out that if I had eggs every day, they might end up not being my favorite, because I’d get tired of them.

Well, maybe. But there are a lot of ways to cook eggs. I don’t think I’ve found one variation that I didn’t like. Now, I’m talking specifically chicken eggs. I’ve also had quail eggs (yum) and fish eggs (iffy) and cream-filled Cadbury chocolate eggs (double yum). But my staple is plain old hen’s eggs.

This is the time of year for Passover and Easter, so articles are popping up about food (which usually include at least one recipe for eggs) and traditions (which include the Easter egg hunt). At both Passover and Easter, eggs symbolize rebirth and continuing life.

I just read an online article about the history of Easter eggs in Christianity. No one knows for sure how the Easter egg became a tradition. I’ve always heard that Christians co-opted Easter eggs from pagan traditions honoring fertility and spring, and the article mentioned that. But it also offered another possibility. It seems that when the Easter holy day was first being established, Christians were not allowed, during Lent, to eat meat or any product that came from animals, including eggs. Chickens, of course, do not stop laying eggs for Lent, so for the forty days of Lent leading up to Easter, people hard-boiled the eggs to store them. Then when Lent was over – at Easter – they had all these hard-boiled eggs. Easter eggs.

True? Who knows? Sounds plausible. If it’s true, I’m glad I didn’t live back then, because I would have had a hard time giving up eggs for Lent. Meat? Fine. Give it up. Eggs? Not so easy.

I recently ordered a cookbook entitled Egg Shop just so I could get a few more recipes for eggs. Along the way to the recipes, I learned some egg trivia.

• Sunlight tells a hen’s body it’s time to lay eggs, so the longer the daylight, the more the hen is likely to lay an egg.

• Hens want to have a whole pile of eggs – a clutch. So when eggs are taken from a nest, it makes her want to lay more.

• The breed of the chicken and the type of diet determine the color of the eggshell.

If you grew up with some experience on a farm, chances are you knew that trivia already – only it wasn’t trivial on the farm, was it?

So . . . eggs for dinner tonight? Omelet, eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, eggs a la goldenrod, fried eggs, scrambled . . . “a work of art, a masterpiece.” Yes, quite simply, brilliant.

I leave you this piece of advice from Nick Korbee’s Egg Shop: The Cookbook. He applies it to cooking eggs. But it applies just as well to life:

“You must know how to begin, and what you desire in the end.”

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy

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