Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Eggs-actly (a re-run)

My neighbor sells eggs. Often I go over and fetch a dozen out of the fridge on the back porch and leave my money in the bucket. Other times I wander into the henhouse with an empty carton and fill it with eggs lifted straight from the nests. Each small, warm oval rests lightly in my hand, a marvel of packaging and design. The hens cluck and fuss about my feet, the sun slants in the windows, filtering through the raised dust like rays from heaven, and the little enclosed world of egg production seems a place of warmth and rightness.

Tonight while I was contemplating what to make for dinner there was a knock on my door and there stood my neighbor with a carton in her hand. She set it on the counter and lifted the lid. In each of the twelve rounded cavities rested an odd-looking egg.

“I can’t market these,” she said, running her fingertips lightly over the shells and picking up one of the eggs from its resting place. It was bulbous at one end, as though the hen had given an extra hard push at laying time and then got up too soon. I had to chuckle. Each egg in the carton was just slightly askew, as though the idea of “egg” had been vaguely misinterpreted. One had extra chunks of calcium attached in an irregular pattern like some kindergarten child had made it with too much glue and enthusiasm. Another had an elongated end, a third had striations around its middle like a fancy, tooled chair leg. Two of the eggs were colored a pale bluish green and another two were so small they lolled in their hollows with room to spare.

“You see?” said my neighbor as I peered into the box. “None of these are ‘perfect’ so I can’t sell them in the store. Most people like their eggs to be….well, egg-shaped and these…” She looked at me and grinned. “These are kind of like you and me—recognizable but just a bit off center.”

The idea of imperfectly shaped eggs being somehow inferior and less appetizing or marketable seemed suddenly silly. After all, how many recipes do you know that call for unbroken eggs? Once the shell is cracked and tossed, who would notice its weird shape? And the outer form of the shell has no effect on the taste or nutritional value of the egg itself.

Looking at those eggs made me wonder about our perceptions of perfection. Whose ideas of faultlessness do we carry around in our heads and why do we subscribe to them? What constitutes our personal definition of perfection and does our idea of that change over time? Further, if we change our thought or expectation or desire, does that change the rightness of what we once held to be ‘perfect?’

I refrigerated all but four of the eggs. Then I fetched my recipe book and a bowl, cracked the four eggshells against its rim, and whipped the contents with milk and sugar into the smoothest of custards, which, when baked, turned out just perfectly.


Molly said...

One of my fondest memories is of visiting my grandmother out the country and going with her to the hen house to reach in under the chickens and find those warm magic ovals! I never would have had the courage to do it without Granny. After all, I'd peck out the eyes of anyone who dared to steal my chicks. If I were a chicken.....
"Perfection" is over rated. Which is one of the reasons I love quilting. Not factory-perfect; made with love by imperfect stitchers; the kind who'd love those off-kilter eggs!

Roberta S said...

Pauline, I love the analogy you made here about perfection. Makes me take pause and consider that perhaps one of society's greatest imperfections is a artificial 'standard' of perfection and the problems it can create...EVEN when baking a cake!

herhimnbryn said...

What a great analogy P. Thankyou.

Anonymous said...

Loved the post....

It is so very tempting to avoid the truth here but I want to be honest for the sake of the post. I am afraid I would have accepted the gift of eggs and in due time, buried them somewhere in the backyard.

I know! I know! But I am such a ????, what's a good word - food wuss! I think that is a direct result of my germaphobic genes.

It is not the imperfection in the shape or color of the egg itself that causes me concern but rather what's the reason for the imperfection. Like in the movie, Alien, if I crack the egg open will some face-sucking creature leap out and onto my face. I just can't take that chance.

Even if I crack it open and it looks completely normal, I would not be able to bring myself to eat it because I would just assume the alien critter was too small to see.

But be aware, this comment directed toward the subject matter comes from someone who practices total segregation of different foods on his plate.

I truly wish I could say I was just kidding around with this comment but then I would be hiding the truth. :)

Alan G

Jo said...

Oh, gosh, everything has to be perfect, doesn't it? That doesn't mean it is the best, though. And that applies to everything, as you say -- especially people. Some of the most perfect-looking people are just empty inside.

In BC, we grow the sweetest, juiciest strawberries -- the best in the world. But the supermarkets will not sell them because they don't look like "perfect" strawberries. So instead the supermarkets sell the slightly cardboard strawberries imported from California, and they are not as sweet or delicious as our own. But they "look" pretty.

Makes ya wonder.....

Paul said...

Sounds like you're whipping up parables.

Pauline said...

molly - being slightly off-kilter has its advantages

Roberta - ah those pesky standards!

:) HHB!

cyber - you'd never survive a meal at my house!

Jo - how true. And how silly.

Paul - if not me, who?

Tom Bailey said...

What a far different way of living you get to experience.

Fresh eggs? That is something I have never experienced.

Thank you for sharing.

Barbara said...

The old lesson of not judging a book by its cover. I'll be the other 8 eggs were equally delicious.

Pauline said...

Tom - nothing like a farm fresh egg

Barbara - the lessons are all around us aren't they?

Meggie said...

I ermember those less than perfect eggs, from my childhood gathering of our chooks eggs. Made no difference to my grandmother, all were used, & all were perfectly acceptable.
I know of a mother who has just given birth to twin daughters, both perfect in their own way. Sadly, one has Down Syndrome... what would Alan say about that, I wonder..

Richard said...

It would have been awesome to see pictures of those eggs.

I would love to find a oddly shaped egg in the dozen I buy instead of a cracked one.