Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Boiled Eggs

Nov 12, 1923-Aug 22, 2011

At some dinner parties the most wonderful conversations, clever and witty, erudite and eloquent arise spontaneously, out of nowhere. A host with a lavish hand and an ever ready bottle opener, good food and a company of people who share a positive attitude towards the pleasures in life are essentials; without these as givens no party will ever really take off.

Some of these conversations are so brilliant that I forget everything but a rough outline of the subjects discussed almost by the time we get home; I'd love to be clever and able to turn these conversations into equally brilliant blog posts, but short of taking a dictaphone and hiding it on the table during the meal I can think of no way to make that possible. Music, literature, the arts, the theatre, how do you keep track of bon-mots and amusing remarks, intelligent arguments and witticisms on these topics? By their very nature they ebb and flow without leaving a permanent imprint except to tell you about the speakers' preferences.

Unless the talk turns to eggs. I can remember eggs. Eggs is easy.

My favourite host invited us to meet a friend of his, one of his former students, whose first novel is to be published in the spring. She is busy writing her second novel about a barrister in chambers; she herself trained as a lawyer, the subject is therefore an obvious choice. She has given this barrister an egg to eat in one episode, and mention of this led us to a discussion of what you can judge about the character of a person from the way he or she eats a boiled egg.

Quite apart from the Swiftian war between the Lilliputians and Blefuscu, a lengthy conflict between the big-enders and the little-enders, who could not agree on which end to crack to eat a boiled egg, there must be other rules and regulations people hold dear.

Mr. Woodhouse, father of the eponymous heroine in Jane Austen's 'Emma', believed that 'an egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome'.

Personally, I prefer a softish yolk inside a firm white, but there are many ways to boil an egg. I once watched a fellow guest in a hotel in Cornwall send back his egg three mornings running, because it was not cooked to his exacting specification; he had stipulated the number of minutes and the chef was unable to bring the egg to the required consistency, no matter how closely he watched the boiling point. In the end, another guest came up with the most logical solution: the Cornish egg was simply too fresh compared to the egg the complainant usually used.

Once we have established how to boil an egg, how do we then open it?  Which end, big or little? Do we stick our knife into it and swivel it round the whole of the big or little end? Do we upend the egg and hit it on the plate? Do we hit the top of the egg with the knife? Or maybe the egg spoon instead of the knife? Do we peel the opened end or eat the top out of the separated end?

Again, speaking for myself only, I use the most merciless method of getting at my egg: I lay it sideways on my plate and behead it with one hard whack, then eat the little end first.

But stop, I forgot a very important point: Do we add salt to the opened egg before we eat it? Kipling says 'Being kissed by a man who didn't wax his moustache was like eating an egg without salt', although I think he probably stole the phrase from an old Spanish proverb which says that 'a kiss without a moustache is like eating an egg without salt.'

I won't bring up the soldiers and egg question, I am assuming we are all adults on this blog. Or the hard-boiled egg salad, an abomination in my opinion. There may, of course, be those who do not like boiled eggs; you will, no doubt, tell me so. But a Sunday morning without a boiled egg to accompany a thickly buttered slice of hot toast, or, even better, a thickly buttered slice of sweet raisin and cinnamon bread, is not worth getting up for.


  1. Hello:
    We love eggs....boiled, scrambled, poached, devilled, fried, coddled....eggs Benedict,egg mayonnaise,eggs Mornay ....and even Egg Flip!!! However, we cannot, dear Friko, possibly disclose how we eat our eggs for that would reveal far too much about ourselves!!!!!

  2. I detest soft boiled eggs so I never eat them. If I have eggs in the morning it's fried over medium. My favorite way to eat a hard boiled egg is deviled. I could eat a whole plate of them.

  3. You needn't worry, Friko, about remembering the witticisms at the dinner tables you frequent. Teachers could use your writing as an example of wit.

    Thank you for your egg essay today!

    PS: I like a tissue-paper thin fried egg on two slices of brown bread with butter, salt, and an onion slice. Ah! The taste delight.

  4. Hard-boiled eggs were a handy snack or luncheon source of protein on day trips when my doc had mandated a weight loss and low sodium diet. Not a great culinary experience, but tolerable when taken with a dose of beautiful scenery. And like bananas, they came with their own protective casing.

    I too love deviled eggs. In the American South of my childhood, hardboiled eggs were an ingredient for the creation of other dishes, such as your vilified egg salad or Ellen's deviled eggs.

  5. My newest doctor (a gerontologist, much to my dismay) has said "no eggs" or, worse yet, "you can eat the white but not the yolk"!
    What is the point of that, I ask you.
    Boiled eggs. With the white firm and the yolk runny, the way my grandmother used to make them. And, yes, a very-very-fresh egg is a challenge.
    When I was a child, I liked to remove the top (the small end) by tapping around the edge to loosen the shell, then cutting it off with a dull knife, scooping out the contents of top and bottom into a bowl, and adding lavish amounts of butter and a bit of salt. (As much butter as my mother would allow, and not too much salt because I was a child.)
    On our recent cruise, we could get Eggs Benedict from the buffet, but one day I ordered poached eggs on toast, and got poached eggs on bread. A travesty.

    I loved your post, Friko. I love "Eggs is easy"!!
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  6. There is something so comforting about boiled eggs! Definitely good to eat for breakfast, but also infinitely satisfying, as a light supper, when one is feeling off colour. I like mine with a soft, but not runny, yolk and the white needs to be firm, but not tough. I chop the small end off and also first eat the egg white out of that, before tackling the rest of the egg. I like salt and pepper, served in a small dish on the side. I dip my spoon into it with each mouthful of egg. My toast must be crisp and slightly cool, so the butter stays hard and I like a serving of Seville marmalade on the side.

  7. Eggs make me think of chickens and not the kind that run freely in a lovely pasture. No, the commercial kind, where the hens can barely turn in their inhumane, corporate production sites.

    I did treat myself to a dozen "ethical" eggs on sale for $5 only yesterday. The rare boiled egg I might ingest will likely be smothered with Veganaise and a sprinkle of Cayenne.

  8. I like the thickly buttered slice of we're talking

  9. What joy to read ! Guess, that I haven't eaten an egg for three decades. A good Thursday for you all.

  10. Lightly boiled, cut the top of the pointy end off and eat it first, then fingers of toast to dip in and break the yolk ...and always with salt. And at the moment I am enjoying using my late mother-in-law's fine china egg cups.

  11. Hard boiled egg cooked for eight minutes, place in egg cup, slice off the little end salt, pepper, toast then dig in yum!. Can't stand a runny egg YUK! :-).

  12. What food for thought, Friko. Eggs are not on my menu at present, but I like them sliced from the little end, and they must be cooked past the sloppy stage.
    Discussions of cooking techniques are fun, and a chance to transmit knowledge. But not how to suck eggs.
    I am reminded of breast milk, and how it comes in cute little containers.

  13. I do not love eggs - especially boiled. If I must, they mustn't be boiled and tough but simmered, the whites cooked, the yolks moist but not runny, lightly salted and served with buttered toast. Small end up, chopped neatly with a knife, the top saved until there is a smidgeon of yoke available to add to it. Egg whites alone are entirely disgusting.

    My husband was raised to love his eggs and trained the children to love them also and they are passing the tradition on. Soft boiled, runny yokes but cooked whites, salted and served with soldiers.

  14. boiled eggs mashed with butter salt and pepper...mmm...i rather mine fried though...

  15. I don't eat soft boiled eggs. I've never liked them, but my husband loves them. One favorite part of going to Germany last year was the soft boiled eggs he had for breakfast every morning. He crack the narrow end with a spoon, and carefully scoops the egg out of the shell. He seems to have it mastered.

  16. Who would have thought so many intelligent people would love sharing how they eat their hard boiled eggs. I suppose it is the simple things in life we most love talking about. And for once I am no different.
    5 minutes, cracked with a knife in the middle and scraped onto Dark Rye toast with a glass of milk. I swear it makes my day!

  17. Oh Friko you old egg lover that was a magnificent post. We love eggs too and eat them at any meal. Been under the weather myself for a few days. The rainy, pollen filled weather in the Ohio River Valley. It is called "The Ohio Valley Crud."

  18. As long as they're not pickled, I'll take eggs any way you cook them. While I'm at it, I'll take the cinnamon toast, too thanks. I agree with Dee - you don't need anyone's help to write a witty post!

  19. Friko, I thank you for reminding me of how much I do like soft boiled eggs. Now I know what I am going to have for breakfast tomorrow!


  20. I prefer my eggs over-medium with salt and pepper, or scrambled when I choose to lighten the cooks burden. Never eat a boiled egg, unless to garnish a salad. A boiled yoke is the epitome of sin - how can anyone eat that refuse?

  21. Are there egg snobs, like there are wine snobs? Are the rules more important than the enjoyment? Sorry, I'm just an uncultured country boy. Eggs are meant to be eaten, wine is meant to be drunk, and never let rules get in the way of enjoying either! Cheers! Jim

  22. I love a softly boiled egg for my Sunday breakfast.
    But what I really love about your post is the illustration by Loriot. OMG, there is nothing like him!! My husband always wanted him as president - what a fine choice. I didn't know that he had died this summer. We will always remember him fondly.

  23. The Egg Council owes you a fee!

    Aloha from Waikiki;

    Comfort Spiral

    > < } } ( ° >

  24. Like the Hattatts, I enjoy eggs in their every incarnation! I do prefer them with a hard white and barely cooked yolk, however. Toast soldiers optional. :)

  25. I have several old egg cups that I inherited when my mother died. She was English. (What is it with the English and soft boiled eggs?) She loved soft boiled eggs and would dip her toast in the yolk...Yuck! I hate soft boiled eggs, but the egg cups remind me of my mother.

  26. Since we have chickens (running freely, Om, they cluster round the back door when they decide it's time to be fed), my breakfast egg is normally poached, as that needs the freshest possible egg so that the white stays neat and doesn't spread in the water.

  27. Hi Friko .. wonderful read .. I love soft boiled eggs .. one isn't enough, not sure two is enough .. but definitely with salt and lashing of buttery toast - sometimes dipped in!

    Can understand the Cornish egg though .. great fun and loved the read and all the comments - look at what an egg can do ...

    Cheers to your egg - today is a day for one .. cool, gloomy and damp! Hilary

  28. Cinnamon raisin toast and a hard boiled egg is my kind of breakfast. Me!? I peel the entire egg...salt and pepper and eat! Yum!1

  29. Yes, Friko. You can tell a lot about the way people tackle a soft boiled egg. There are the bashers, the slashers, the swipers and the peelers. A suitable case for man-watching.


  30. Deffo little end up, decapitated and salted and then penetrated by a soldier! :-)

  31. egg mayonaisse in your jacket spud

    Nuff said

  32. Maybe the mysteries of egg-cooking-and-eating could replace the current methods of criminal profiling!! If so much can be told, then I'm not giving up my secrets here!!

    Thanx for your lovely comment on my blog - to see some Aussie scenic public toilets (and for great fun!) select the 'Scenic Public Toilet' tag in my blog's sidebar!

  33. This is an interesting talks about eggs, Friko. You might feel culturally shocked to hear that “ raw egg and rice” is a simple and wholesome dish to start a day in Japan. I’ve hardly ever heard the news of salmonella poisoning and we can obtain very fresh eggs. However, I don’t know why this is popular despite the fact that the nutrient of boiled egg is more digestible. If you’re intersted to know, check “tamago kake gohan” on searching engine. I like soft-poached eggs, soft and creamy whites with barely-cooked yolks. It is called “onsen (hot spring) tamago (eggs)” in Japanese. They were originally made by being soaked into hot spring.


  34. My mother quite definitely didn't believe the Feed A Cold , Starve A Fever adage ( or is it the other way round?) , and I was force fed TWO boiled eggs for breakfast , instead of the usual one , if peaky .
    Despite that I still love them .... soft boiled , no salt , with a crisp roll .

  35. für mich sind Eier essen ein wahrer Luxus und ich gönne mir sie nur selten und wenn, dann bitte Bioeier :-)! Und ich esse sie so wie Du sie gerne magst, nur, wenn ich sie mit einem Schlag köpfe, dann stehen sie aufrecht, ja!
    Dir einen recht schönen Abend, liebe Friko!

  36. I had a husband once who had a moustace, and I prefer a clean shaven mouth. Also, never ever gottent the hang of soft boiled eggs, I eat poached eggs. Fresh eggs from my daughter's chickens are not nearly as good as the older eggs from the local market. I must really be weird. Dianne

    PS who can remember anything said at a party?

  37. I must defend egg salad! As we have our own chickens, this is a popular sandwich filling around here. Mashed hard cooked eggs, minced red onion, finely chopped green pepper, salt and pepper, a bit of Muchi curry powder, a bit of pickle relish, chopped pecans, a little Dijon mustard, and homemade mayonnaise -- but not to the point of goopiness. With lettuce, on homemade type bread or rolls or a baguette, it's really good.

  38. Dear Friko: Good egg story! Eggs are so healthy now(until the next medical study proves otherwise).Crack boiled eggs with little cracks all around then take off the shell in cold water; Forget the eggholder;they never work!

  39. It seems my comment didn't make it from my house to yours, so I will try again (though god knows what I said before). The main thing is, I love this post! We like nothing better than a boily egg on a Sunday morning, but have totally different approaches to getting past that shell--one a tapper, one the guillotine approach. And as to that, I think next time, I'm going to try your sideways whack!

  40. Give me eggs, give me eggs,
    soft, hard, pickled, baked. Boiled. Fried, Benedicte mirabile.
    Poached, coddled, scrambled, mashed, nogged. And a concoction of ma mere's: Filipped (sp?)said to improve the voice.

    Sung to the tune of "Hair".

    I dare you!

  41. Three minutes, small end lopped off and the egg scooped from it first. The main part eaten with a little pepper, using a particular spoon.
    I have just a touch of OCD when it comes to eggs.
    Re the green forest around Pondside - don't be fooled. The needles are green but the cedar and fir trees go up like candles. The forest floor is dry and littered with fallen boughs and dried moss - it all catches in a minute.

  42. Beautifully written post Friko. I am also a beheader. I do like my eggs cooked, but soft enough to wipe up with toast.
    The breakfast you describe is perfect.
    Poached is also a favorite of mine, carefully balanced on buttered toast, delicately eaten so as not to have that lovely yoke run off the sides. Yum.

  43. I did so enjoy this witty post, Friko. But, re. hard boiled egg salads, I think you forget the incomparable salad nicoise. A salad nicoise without plenty of hard boiled eggs is like walking Hadrian's Wall without a pint of ale at the end of the day. Or wine without cheese and olives. Or mushroom risotto without heaps of fresh herbs and parmesan. Inconceivable.

    I have to ration my eggs as I love them too much for someone with a tendency towards high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

  44. Good post. When I ran the B & B I always tried to find "the perfect egg." But I've found you never can because everyone's idea of the perfect egg is different. Well dang.

  45. This brings in the visual for me...a collage of differently prepared eggs. I've seen a few babies with faces that look like soft-boiled eggs. I guess I shouldn't say that..oh, well.

    My father always liked his egg raw in the morning...of course, that was long before everyone swore it would kill you. He lived to 86.

  46. H'mmm - as a former egg eater I was never concerned which end I attacked first so long as I could access the perfectly runny yolk. The pleasure, infantile as it was, was in upending the empty shell to mimic a full egg . . .
    . . . and yes, I used to enjoy hard-boiled eggs and still serve them as an accompaniment to curry - and kedgeree!

  47. I love eggs, Friko! Anyway, anyhow, anywhere. I'm merciless when I eat a hardboiled egg. I smack the egg on the side of the sink, peel it into the garbage disposal, salt and pepper the first bite, (I could care less which end!) and it's gone, with a bit of salt and pepper between bites.
    You don't need to worry about telling a good story . . . you've got it!

  48. Your post reminds me that I've not eaten a boiled egg for years. Always preferred a slightly soft yolk with a dash of salt.

  49. I love all the kinds mentioned, but here are 2 family traditional rwcipes that weren't mentioned. My kids always asked for creamed eggs--their favorite supper dish. Hard-boiled eggs chopped very fine and blended into a cream sauce and served over toast. The other is eggs pickled in beet juice with sugar & vinegar. After a day or two of pickling, they are a gorgeous deep ruby color and look beautiful served whole or cut up in salads.
    On the other hand, I had an Asian friend who loved raw eggs, and I had to ask him, please not to do that in front of me!:(

  50. What energy - and all about eggs! I like mine scrambled, but as a child liked the lightly boiled egg chopped up with salt and pepper and a little butter, all in a cup. Has to be with bread soldiers of course.


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