Sunday, March 27, 2016

The point of an Easter Egg

Has anyone else noticed that commercial eggs, eggs bought in shops or from market stalls, lack two important characteristics? None of them are plain white and very, very few have a pointy end. (Hint: if you do see white eggs, check whether they are duck eggs before buying.)
commercial eggs, bought Sunday 27/03 morning - note triangles

To me these seem an important cultural loss, not least because teachers of English, teaching Gulliver's Travels, will have to explain what the Littlendians and Bigendians were on about to children for whom eggs are simple ovals. Secondly, it takes away the fun of hitting a boiled egg on one end or the other, or slicing through in one quick, skilled movement and argument as to which is the best technique*.

last week's La Chaise eggs

My first job, for pocket money, was in a greengrocer's shop, part of a national chain, where I packed up orders for delivery and sorted the eggs, stamped with the little British Lion mark. It was in the days of 'Go to Work on an Egg' advice, long before eggs were declared to be dangerous to health, if not downright bad for the susceptible – cholesterol and allergies. I sorted the eggs into brown and white. The brown went into a straw lined wicker basket, lion stamp inwards, under the handwritten sign 'Fresh Farm Eggs, with a handwritten price.
commercial eggs - note triangle
The virtual disappearance of the white hen's egg, deprives children and adults (usually mothers, of course) of another charming Easter ritual. This one involved interestingly shaped green leaves – clover, fern tops, small but perfect oak leaves – brown onion skins and yards of white muslin bandage.
Children collected the leaves whilst mother washed the eggs. The leaves stuck to the damp egg, which was then wrapped in onion skins, then wrapped in muslin, carefully fixed with a pin and boiled hard. Instant decorated egg.

Two prize La Chaise eggs - with pointy ends!
Later, when safe flavourless food colouring became available to housewives, the eggs were often luridly coloured and hidden in the house or garden for young children to find. When we sold our London house a couple of years ago, I found a mini chocolate cream egg in the garden, lodged in the crook between leaf stem and leaf of a ficus. I decided to leave it – for luck – for the new owner.

* If you must find an argument of this nature – try walnuts. There are those who think they are easier to crack if hit, with boxwood hammer, on the pointed end. Then there are those who think the opposite. Of course, third parties think they should be hit on the join between the two ends....This argument is confined to people hand-cracking walnuts for walnut oil purposes.

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