Eggs Are Not Just For Easter
Fresh Free-Range Eggs
An Egg is for Life; not just for Easter
At this time of year everyone is probably thinking about eggs – the chocolate variety that are invariably encased in a myriad of cardboard packaging and foil – I’ve had eggs on my mind most of this year for a different reason, actually I can remember the day it started.
One snowy day in January I went to pick up the kids from school and Ellie (7) jumped into the back of the car, where Rory (5) was already strapped in and shrilly she announced ‘she had something for me’, clutching a bundle of paper to her chest protectively. I held out my hand with interest and suddenly all her coyness went out the window as she excitedly thrust into my hand a printed out picture of a chicken coop, some chickens with eggs and some other chickens that she had drawn herself along with her mum and dad and her brother Rory in the picture. I soon got the picture. It turns out Mr Harrison; Ellie’s Life Studies teacher had just spent the whole of his Christmas holidays building his own chicken coop and now wished to inflict his out-of-school activities on every poor parent unlucky enough to have a child in 2a! I’ve always maintained that it should be a pre-requisite for teachers to have their own children.
3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!
So we’ve had the chicken coop, a pre-built one, I may add, for 5 weeks now and we have a mixed-breed family of 5 laying hens, 3 of them French. A hen lays an average of 300 eggs a year, so we also have a great deal of eggs, which is probably why they are uppermost in my mind.
People used to believe the earth was shaped like an egg. The egg has long been a symbol of rebirth, the life cycle and fertility – even today in Thailand, there is a famous dish called ‘Son-in-law eggs’ which originates from a tale about a prospective bridegroom who wanted to impress his future mother-in-law but he only knew how to cook hard-boiled eggs. There are various versions of this story, another being that if a husband wasn’t shaping up (producing grand-children) his mother-in-law would come round and make this dish, insinuating that if he didn’t shape up, his um, er… “egg shaped man parts” (is that family friendly enough?), would be substituted for the eggs the next time she made it! A little story I may share with Mr Harrison, one day at parents' evening. If I have been indelicate or offended anyone with that story, please don't tweet to the hub editors, do it below in comments or outside of this arena!
The Meaning of Eggs
As Europe became Christian, eggs became a symbol of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. In the past, Christians gave up eggs for Lent (the 40 days before Easter when it’s customary to give up different types of food). But even though people didn’t eat them, the hens kept laying them! So people would hard-boil and decorate them. This would help preserve them longer and serve as part of the holiday festivities. The egg is also part of the Jewish Passover holiday that takes place in the Spring, symbolizing sacrifice and rebirth.
It is therefore in the Spring, when everything is coming back into life after the winter, that the egg is most closely associated.
As eggs embody the very essence of life, they have throughout the ages been endowed with mystical or magical properties of being able to divine the future. Eggs have been said to represent the various stages of life, although interestingly the test to see if eggs are still fresh to eat, involves carefully placing the egg in salt water and if it sinks, it's good; if it floats right to the surface, it's too old. Early myths believed the yellow egg yolk, symbolized the sun, which in turn was viewed as a source of life – eggs sunny side up?
I've had this tune in my head, the whole time writing this- thought it was by Sinatra but see now it's Dean Martin (see below, just press black arrow to hear it).
Dean Martin 'How do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning?'
The Value of Eggs
Historically different cultures have their own traditions and beliefs concerning eggs, some shunning eating eggs or destroying them at all, for fear of harming fertility. The Chinese celebrate a one month old baby with a ‘Red Egg and Ginger’ party. In the Middle East eggs were exchanged by brides and grooms.
Have you ever wondered about the ‘chicken and the egg’, saying? Eggs weren’t really eaten until poultry farming became widespread, usually eating hen’s eggs, mainly for economic reasons, as 'the egg is in the chicken, and the chicken is in the egg'! They needed to breed chickens for eating too as we do today.
The Rare Rothschild Faberge Egg Clock
Eggs have been precious throughout history. In the 18th century, Karl Fabergé, a Russian jeweller of French descent was commissioned, by Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II to make jewel encrusted Easter egg gifts for them to give to their Tsarinas (some were miniatures to wear on a necklace chain). The story of Rasputin, Peter the Great and the Royal Princesses will intrigue most kids . Fabergé eggs were made from then on, chiefly for the Russian Royal family, although a few were commissioned for wealthy people. In 2007 Christies auctioned a Fabergé egg which was made for the Rothschild Banking family. The egg has a working clock in it, which chimes with a rooster ‘cluck’. The eggs are a good way to teach children about the history of Russia and the frustrations felt by the Russian masses as they starved in the cold - while these eggs were being commissioned as Easter gifts year after year. The Rothschild egg fetched over 8.5 million pounds. The Fabergé eggs are however, works of art which have been emulated the world over by jewellers in various sizes for ornaments and jewellery.
Eggs- comfort food or dressed up dinner party style
Grown-up Egg Dishes
In the Second World War, eggs, amongst other foods, were rationed and people living on farms traded fresh eggs for other commodities. Powdered egg was used to bake with and a whole new wave of eggless cake recipes were born.
Back to my brood, we just eat the eggs, having no intention of killing the birds. They roam free all day, free to come and go to their smart coop, where we secure them at night in case of foxes. The children give them corn treats each afternoon and although we did discourage it, they have named all 5 hens and amazingly can tell the difference (I can’t).
I, as the main cook in the house have had to become very inventive with cooking eggs which is very easy, as they are so versatile. What other ingredient can you bake, boil, fry, scramble, poach, soufflé, coddle, use to make starters, mains, desserts and snacks? Fresh free-range eggs are healthy to eat, whether comfort food, like creamy scrambled eggs or soft-boiled eggs with soldiers or posh grown-up style food like devilled eggs or béarnaise sauce to accompany your favourite steak. Every country has its’ own national egg dishes, Spain having Spanish omelette, tortillas and frittatas, Italy renowned for egg pasta in many shapes, China with Birthday egg noodles, France for her egg-rich crêpes, Russian blinis, Scotch eggs, American breakfast with eggs cooked in ways I had never heard of – over easy, under easy etc., when I first visited Florida 10 years ago. I love steak and eggs in America. In England we love egg and bacon, Yorkshire puddings, bread and butter pudding, poached egg on an English muffin and custard tarts. World Egg Day is the second Friday in October each year. The egg is truly the star of your kitchen all year round!
No Egg Cups!
Softly-boiled Eggs with Soldiers
The first Sunday we had freshly laid eggs, I was up early collecting them and decided we would all have softly- boiled eggs with soldiers, so the kids and Rachel sat patiently waiting whilst I timed eggs (2 each) buttered and cut toast lovingly into perfect soldiers but as I went to serve, only 2 egg cups (mis-matched) in the house, so Ellie and Rory got these and we ended up having ours in a mug stuffed with kitchen roll! My wife Rachel was not impressed and I was detailed the next day to go and re-equip for egg cups and other necessary egg-related kitchen aids!
I bought the children a really cute soldier egg cup set, with spoon and special cutter for the bread to come out soldier shape (see below for picture) and they are thrilled. Rachel and I have one each of the Frieling set, which comes with its' own salt (we both love lots of salt with boiled eggs) and its' own special spoon.
This is what our children have
I had burned the plastic cups in the previous 4 egg poacher, by accidently letting the water boil dry whilst on the phone, so I bought a couple of these poach pads in the shape of an egg shell, which I thoroughly recommend (remember to spray lightly with oil first to stop the egg sticking and makes the pod easy to clean).
I replaced the family egg poacher with this electric one - we couldn't resist the lovely design and it does a good, easy job of producing really tender eggs.
Boils and poaches eggs-all parts go in the dishwasher after (except electric base). Eggcellent reviews
Egg cups we bought to give as Easter gifts
The whole chicken and egg experience is positive, despite my original protestations to the kids. I’m a very keen cook who likes good, fresh ingredients and we all love the difference in taste we are getting from our eggs. The hens aren’t noisy (cockerels are) and the kids love them, but also keep them clean (that was the proviso I absolutely stipulated before ordering the chicken coop). We were worried our dogs would chase the hens but this hasn’t happened either, so everyone’s happy.
This year for Easter we’re doing something different. We’ve bought a selection of egg cups to sit our freshly laid eggs in, once the kids have decorated them. We’ll wrap them in brown paper, tie them with string and give them out as gifts at our Easter Egg Hunt (the eggs, not the children) which is being held at our home this year.
No Substitute for Chocolate!
However I won’t insult you by pretending that eggs are any substitute for chocolate, Ellie and Rory will enjoy their favourite Cadbury mini eggs – apparently these are only available in the UK all year round? (I wish they weren’t). Rachel, will get a dark chocolate egg with a fancy bow on it from me and breakfast in bed on Easter Sunday before we have a dozen children descend on us, yelling and running around the garden for the Egg Hunt, whilst us adults enjoy some rather posh canapés indoors with a good glass of wine and some jazz music playing in the background.
Wishing you all a Peaceful and Happy Easter !
Dark chocolate egg with a surprise inside