Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Eggs and I

The Eggs and I

I am becoming rather annoyed with the eggs around here.

Yes, this is a “spoiled American” rant, as my husband calls it. But the truth is, I am accustomed to certain things about my eggs that are not part of South African eggs and, after four years, some of these things are starting to annoy me.

I don’t mind that you can’t find a white egg to save your soul. Since I no longer have little kids who want to dye Easter eggs, it’s no big deal to me if the shells are white or brown. But it would be nice if the egg shells, regardless of colour, were of a relatively uniform thickness.

What do I mean? Well, anyone who has ever bought and cooked eggs in America has an unconscious expectation that, when cracking eggs, the same amount of force is needed for each and every egg. Americans have this expectation because…well…that is their reality. I doubt it occurs to any American that egg shells come in varying degrees of thickness because in America, they don’t! I have no idea how they do it, but every carton of supermarket eggs that you open will have shells of uniform thickness…the same amount of force you used to crack the first egg will be the same amount of force you need to crack the sixth.

Why is this an issue? Well, in a typical breakfast I make between two and six eggs. I used to crack my eggs right over the pan, but no more. If the egg is thin-shelled, a sharp crack on the edge of the pan will result in shards of shell scattering into the pan like shrapnel. If the egg is thick-shelled, I will have to pound the egg on the edge of the pan numerous times…again, fragging the pan with bits of shell. Thin-shelled eggs burst open unexpectedly, leaving egg on the fingers and shredding the yolk, thick-shelled eggs require digging one’s nails into the barely visible crack and prying the egg open…again leaving egg all over the fingers and often resulting in broken yolks. It’s a good thing that Hubby and I both prefer our eggs cooked with broken, hard-cooked yolks.

Another problem is that South African eggs often have blood spots in them. Now, most Americans would be grossed out by the little quarter-inch bleb of blood floating around in their egg white and would discard the egg. If South Africans did that, there would be a lot of eggs go to waste since I see that spot in fully half the eggs I smash open here. Again, breaking the egg into a bowl allows me to fish out not only the shell shrapnel, but to remove those blood spots, which look like a scab if they are allowed to cook. Again, fingernails are the best tool for this, so again, goopy egg-fingers.

Boiling eggs here has been a no-win situation for me. First of all, no matter what I try, I cannot get the yolks centred. Why is this an issue? Well, have you ever tried to make devilled eggs with the yolk cavity only half there? What about dishes in which the eggs are supposed to be sliced or quartered for garnish? I know all the tricks…I’ve been cooking for half a century now…but South African eggs seem to defy all the rules. No matter what I do, the boiled eggs come out with the yolk almost clinging to the inside of the shell. Last night’s batch was the worst yet…the yolks had migrated to one end of the egg and when I peeled them, the white was so thin over the end that it peeled away with the shell leaving exposed yolk in its wake. I have no idea how South African cooks get their boiled egg yolks centred…or if they even do.

I come to the opinion that the egg industry here doesn’t apply the same…or even similar…product standards that are the norm in the US. For one thing, I’d never seen a rotten egg (off the farm, anyway) in America. Here, I’ve managed to stink up my kitchen with two of them in the past four years. Admittedly, they both came from the same supermarket chain (Checkers) which will never, ever, ever see me buy anything fresh from them again, but the fact remains that I bought a carton of eggs from a major supermarket here and two of them were stinky, sloppy, liquidy, disgustingly rotten. Since I am afflicted with one of those open plan kitchens, the stench quickly filled not only the kitchen, but the dining room too, and enveloped the breakfast bar between them, where my husband was making coffee and awaiting his eggs. Unfortunately, the second bad egg was opened a few days later, repeating the experience. I now stick to Windmill eggs from Pick n Pay, their freshness never having disappointed me.

Americans are also accustomed to having clean eggs. You know…clean…no feathers or dirt or chicken poop sticking to them. Apparently that’s not a big concern here, and another reason that scattering egg shell shrapnel all over the edible part of the egg is not such a great idea. Three of the eggs in the dozen I boiled last night had dirty shells…looking actually like dirt…and one had identifiable chicken poop clinging to it (Grandma Violet used to send me out to the chicken house to collect eggs…I know what a poopy egg looks like). Gone are the days that I simply opened a carton of eggs next to the stove and cracked them into the pan as I wanted them. First it’s a wash, then into the egg basket, then a crack into the bowl followed by a smell test and then a fishing expedition to remove shell splinters and blood spots.

Making breakfast sure isn’t what it used to be!

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