Scene: I’m with a grandmother in Dresden Germany. She hass taken me out to show me the finest shops. We enter one through a large wooden door with ornate carvings, and inside a well dressed man greets us. I’m handed a book- small and light blue, with a sturdy spine. It is a book about eggs: brown ones, speckled ones, oval, circular and many hues of greens, blues and whites. All of the text (in German, therefore indecipherable to me) is in a gilded cursive font. I can feel the quality of the printing by running my fingers over the page. I’m brought into a smaller room off to the side and there are embellished cases with glass domes. Inside are beautifully arranged eggs, and I have no idea if they are fresh and temperature controlled or hollow for display. It’s an aesthetic sight for sure, but are they delicious? I can’t tell.
If we hadn’t just last afternoon been talking about the construction project we’re undergoing at work, with one of our goals being to carry a large selection of different types of eggs (quale, duck, chicken, etc), one could assume that there are some underlying fertility issues at play here. But that’s not the case. I’m excited about having a deliberately cultivated collection of eggs in the shop. Where I might veer from reality is in how I imagine it will look like.
When I think of eggs, I immediately think of the egg lady in John Walters’ ‘Pink Flamingos’. At the Deli, Edith will not be present, but I’ll be sure to pay homage to her in some fashion, with an illustration of a baby pen, or her likeness in cartoon form. Waters’ low-brow egg lady and a fancy egg emporium seem to be at polar opposites, but the truth is that the quality lies hidden in the shell. They can be beautifully housed on stands under glass as if they’re in the hermitage, or obfuscated by cartons in a florescent grocery aisle, yet their quality has little to do with how they look. It’s their pedigree and freshness that counts.
Last night I coordinated with my friend and restauranteur Ji Hye to make some tea eggs for an upcoming event next week. When I mentioned the eggs, her first reply was ‘Ooh, I’ll get them from the market on Saturday. They might be hard to peel, but they’ll be delicious.’ Fresh eggs don’t separate from their shells very easily after being hard boiled. Only with time-“aging”- do they loosen up and release easily. But the flavor also diminishes with time. The quality of the farm- the care of the chickens and (very importantly) their feed- is a big determinant of how they taste. A well cared for chicken will lay beautiful eggs, full of flavor and color.
I had never seen this illustrated before I went to Italy. We were in Parma, visiting a culinary school with an impressive library of antique Italian cook books. The man giving us a tour offered us to stay for lunch, which was very tasty, but the tiramisu they served as dessert blew me away. It was one of those singular moments I’ll never forget. Brilliant yellow cream was hidden under the dusting of cocoa powder. When I inquired, he told me about the man that supplies their eggs, and that the ones used in our cake had been delivered that morning. ‘The chickens eat well, and their yolks show it’ was his response. He let me crack one open and inside was a deep orange-yellow globe- fully intact and perky. A damn fine egg indeed.