Eggs, More Meaning
When someone asks me which came first, I always say the egg. I firmly believe it. Inspiration and possibility. By nature, the egg is an optimistic object. It is also an sublime work of nature, not to be taken lightly. I dip my little tea spoon into a soft boiled hen's egg in the morning and think of the possibilities. One must begin somewhere, yes?
Strolling the outdoor markets in France, you might be surprised to see eggs stacked out in baskets for sale in the open air. This certainly came as a surprise to me when we first arrived here, because I was raised to believe the eggs were instantly poisoned if they were left out on the counter for more than 10 minutes. In the years since we arrived here, my vision of things, of eggs, has shifted, adapted to the culture. Here in France, eggs are stored in a cool place, and rarely ever refrigerated before they're sold, even in a grocery store. It wasn't until I came to France that I learned that eggs are best stored away from the odors and moisture of a refrigerator, at room temperature. I also learned what difference in taste a good egg can have. One that came from a happy animal. The sun and the air, the ground and whatever springs from it can make a difference in the egg quality. I choose my eggs carefully. You should too.
By looking at the code which is a legal requirement in the EU to egg farmers who sell their product, you can tell a whole lot about what kind of egg you're getting. Even the humble farmer selling his eggs at the market has a number. The lady who sells us eggs displays her number on a sign.
The most important digit is of course the first one. From it you can tell a lot.
0- Organically fed free range
1- Free Range (4 square meters of grass covered land per chicken)
2- Barn (free to roam inside but often thousands to a warehouse or barn, 12 to 15 chickens per square meter)
3- Cage (intensive mass production in stacked cages, no sunlight)
The eggs I use in my kitchen come from free range chickens, flock number 5,
from a farm in Bresse.
from a farm in Bresse.
After that, your eggs are marked with codes for their provenance, and the last digits further identify them by their flock number. Why is this? Salmonella comes from sick animals, and not from spoilage of the egg after it is laid, as some might believe. The shell of an egg is a resilient and natural protector of its precious cargo. Once an egg is cracked, its naturally hospitable contents are open to whatever might be lurking about, so be careful with prepared dishes containing raw eggs.