sábado, 28 de noviembre de 2009
Ode to the Egg
Ode to the Egg
Today calls for an ode to the egg. That little oval being that patiently graces your breakfast table, waiting for you to slice off its little head, sprinkle salt over the gleaming white flesh, and gobble it up. Soldier Toast sits alongside, ready to dive headfirst (after having been covered with a thin layer of Marmite...) into the yellow swimming pool of goodness. This is, as they say in Spain, a 'Señor desayuno'.
I eat a silly amount of eggs. I buy a silly amount of eggs, a dozen a pop. They are up there in the line of my perfect foods. Doing life on an empty stomach is not something I'm any good at, so even though we stop working at 10am for breakfast in the pastelería, I need to have eaten a little something. So each morning, as I scuttle along the dark roads, wishing the sun would get up, I crack open a hard-boiled egg on the stone walls of Spanish government buildings, eternally wishing I had had the foresight to bring a little pot of salt and pepper.
At home on days off, either breakfast or lunch is probably going to be some kind of egg-concoction; yellowy flesh wobbling and jolly when it's been scrambled; or browned and dotted with vegetables and cheese in an omelette, or proudly waiting to have the yolk popped after a visit to the flying pan. Eggs, with their orange sun hidden in the middle, bring a smile to my day.
But the egg deserves an ode not just because I rather like it, nor just because it makes the basis of quick and easy meals. But rather, because it is damn good for us. Beneath that brittle shell lies a mountain of goodness for our bodies. The cholesterol they contain is the kind we need for memory function and cell repair. Their yolks hold omega 3 fatty-acids, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, D, E and K2, and they're an important source of good-quality protein that should play a starring role in our diets.
But. There is a catch. Just one. I'm talking here about a certain type of egg, and I think you've probably already guess what kind. The vitamin-rich egg is not one that comes out of a battery-raised chicken fed on only grains. The diet of the chicken makes an impressive difference to the nutritional quality of its egg (1), and the most important factor is that the chicken can eat some greenery and insects if we want our eggs to be full of goodness. Yes, they are more expensive than conventional eggs, but not if you think about the nutrients you are getting for your money.
I'll leave you with a picture of the perfect egg. I've never actually eaten it myself, but reading about it has left me wishing to find something so well thought-out, so complex, and yet so in keeping with what nature has presented us with. These are the eggs that Michael Pollen writes about in his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, from chickens raised on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm. The birds are fed a mixture of soybeans, corn and kelp, but a large percentage of their diet comes from grass and insects hidden within that grass. Salatin practices a system of 'management-intensive grazing', on his farm where he breeds a whole host of animals, each of which are intertwined with the other species on the farm, and intimately related to the grass underfoot. Thus, his chickens are regularly moved to new patches of grass, following in the footsteps of Salatin's cows, whose manure piles provide a feast of fly larvae for the chickens. This high-protein, natural chicken feed can make up as much as a third of their diet, and means that these eggs richer, tastier, and coveted by local customers and restaurants. But it also means that the hens are playing a key role in the maintenance of this ecosystem; sanitising the pastures, and fertilising them by leaving their own nitrogen-rich droppings. Eggs from these hens are, indeed, good eggs.