Eggs – the undervalued beating heart of the kitchen. They’re usually only given the spotlight in food magazines during the Easter period. Of course food journalism works in seasons, who would want to know how to make a Christmas pudding in March or a refreshing summer cocktail in November? But recently a thought came to my mind – what would we do without eggs. Sure, some people live without them, but the majority of us see them as a kitchen essential, a trusty ingredient that isn’t simply having a trend (unless paired with the avocado) but has been a source of food for as long as we can remember.
A bit of context behind this, so I don’t just come across as someone who day dreams about eggs, but I am surrounded by them when at home. I live with my parents who six years ago decided to buy pet chickens (ironically the same year I left home for university, theoretically I was replaced by chickens). The funny, noisy, dinosaur ancestors have become a main part of our household, frequently referred to by my mum as ‘the girls’ and a source of entertainment every time we attempt to eat a meal outside and before you know it there’s a chicken stood on the table. Whilst they were bought purely as pets (my parents don’t eat meat so wouldn’t even think of using them for anything else!) of course their daily laying of eggs has become extremely useful for the kitchen. The egg holder is never empty, my grandparents are continuously stocked up with eggs and it’s saved me a lot of money when it comes to baking. Even my cousin who tries to keep to a vegan diet will eat our chickens eggs as they know where they’ve come from. Our chicken live the chicken dream, they have a huge pen to sleep and live in when they’re not running around the garden digging mud baths and hiding in the bushes. Our leftover bread, salad and grapes never go to waste these days and to the chicks the leftovers are an excitable treat.
One thing we immediately noticed since having our own chicken eggs compared to shop bought is the brightness of the egg yolk. It’s said that the colour of the yolk doesn’t reflect the nutrient value of an egg. It’s simply down to chickens being free range and having the opportunity to eat more pigmented foods which transfer to the yolk. It’s as simple as changing a chickens diet to change the colour of the yolk. But it’s not just the yolk colour that can differ in eggs, we have one chicken (aptly named Beyonce by my sister) who lays blue/green shelled eggs. This is due to the breed being a mix of chicken types – a brown leghorn and barred rock plus some Aracuana blood (a domestic chicken from South America). So don’t judge a chicken by its yolk or shell colour – they are all equally as good for you.
Talking of being good for you, it’s no secret that eggs contribute to a healthy diet, they’re full of protein and various different minerals and vitamins including vitamin A and D. Why do you think we see athletes and body builders drinking egg whites? It is the quickest source of inexpensive protein, containing 7.5g in just one egg. But there’s much more exciting ways to consume an egg than simply drinking the egg whites, and that’s not the only way they’re good for you either. In short, eggs contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. They also include choline, a nutrient which most people probably don’t even know exists but deficiency of this is serious, choline helps build cell membranes and produces signalling molecules in the brain. Eggs are included in diets to help people lose weight, due to the protein they are filling which means eating fewer calories throughout the day.
The Versatile Food
Eggs are one of the most versatile foods out there. You can poach, fry, scramble, boil and bake just to name a few ways. “How do you like your eggs in the morning” is one of the most well-known phrases and everyone has their own little way of creating their perfect egg. They own the brunch menu, especially with the likes of eggs benedict, baked egg skillets and poached eggs and avocado being favourites with the brunch craze generation. They are the glue to many baking recipes and the finishing touch to many meals – my personal favourite is the egg Florentine pizza aka an egg on top of a pizza. Even if you’re not a fan of eggs as the main star of a meal, it’s hard to go out for food or research a recipe without seeing an egg involved, for example – meringues, burgers, quiche, fried rice, salads and cakes! Eggs can play a vital part in any meal of the day, from eggs on toast for breakfast to an egg mayo sandwich or salad lunch, finished off with a meringue or cake for dessert. It’s no wonder most kitchens contain eggs for when they’re needed and that humans have been eating eggs for as long as we can remember.
The Love of Eggs
Love them or hate them, it’s hard to image a world completely without eggs. They are often related to a relaxing weekend breakfast treat when we don’t have time for them in the mad rush or the week. I can imagine we all have early nostalgic memories of eggs – mine is in the supermarket when there used to be a button to press to make a chicken cluck by the egg section as well as having my own egg cup with my name on it. And imagine some of your favourite childhood games without the egg – egg and spoon race, egg hunts! Whilst food trends are taking over social media, there are over 10 million photos on Instagram with the hashtag #eggs, showing that the humble food is even more photogenic than its partner the avocado which trails behind with 8 million tags. Another mesmerizing stat is that 35.4 million eggs are consumed daily in the UK. Egg themed cafes are popping up everywhere with brunch being the most popular meal of the day on weekends, my personal favourite is The Crafty Egg in Bristol which serves an amazing choice of baked egg skillets. The love of eggs doesn’t seem to be going anywhere even in this day in age where there seems to be more people on plant based or vegan diets than ever. We have a lot to thank the chicken and the egg for, whichever came first.