I adore eggs, whether they be fried, poached, scrambled, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, hot, cold, sweet, savoury, in omelettes, in custards, in cakes, in flans, in soufflés, mousses, meringues, mayonnaise, coddled, curried, benedict, over-easy or pickled (well, perhaps not pickled – that’s over-egging the pudding). You could say I am the eggman. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t ingest egg in one form or another. In fact, I eat so many I’m bloody laying ’em!
Were it not for eggs I would be completely vegetarian, as I wouldn’t dream of devouring the burnt flesh and rendered body-fats of dead animals: yuck! But, because of eggsellent eggs, I must reluctantly count myself as a meat-eater. Yes, eggs are meat. Of course they are meat – even though birdbrains deny it, and I’ve heard some even categorise eggs as dairy! A hen’s egg is the embryo of a chicken in a protective shell from which it would emerge as a fluffy, tweeting chicklet if we didn’t intervene. A chicken is an animal. Ipso facto: eggs are meat. I don’t like it any more than the next cherry-picking veggie, but I don’t do self-delusion so must face the appalling truth that every time I dip my wholemeal bread soldier in that yellow goo I’m murdering, mutilating and then masticating a sentient creature’s FOETUS!
Like nearly all the mammals (bar the platypus and the echidna) human eggs develop internally until they’re ready to be born, but birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, insects, spiders, molluscs and crustaceans – almost the entire remaining animal kingdom – deposit them to be incubated externally. Nothing would induce me to eat the egg of any reptile (just imagine the taste, smell and contents of a python egg!) or any fish (caviar, the roe of sturgeon, is the appropriately disgusting ‘delicacy’ of the super-rich), and surely there’s nobody this side of the Bay of Bengal who would contemplate tucking into, say, frog spawn, snail trails, fly babies or lice larvae. Nor would I sully my innards with the egg of any bird other than the chicken. Ducks, geese, swans, ostriches, emus, eagles, albatrosses and larks etc are not domesticated; only those without an an iota of conscience or an atom of decency could possibly endorse the notion of wild beings serving as mere ‘game’ for frivolous human purposes. However, I’m not kidding myself that it’s right to eat a chicken’s egg either.
Of all the animal species not yet entirely eliminated by humans, the poor chicken has suffered the most grievously. Gallus gallus, the red junglefowl of the bamboo forests of what is now Thailand, were first domesticated 6,000 years ago. Their descendants, carefully cross-bred for millennia, have spread across the planet to become humans’ favourite animal food. Today 50 billion chickens are bred and killed globally every year, kept in conditions of the utmost horror by the poultry industry in order to keep costs to a minimum and boost profits. Pumped with antibiotics, water and growth hormones, the tortured beasts are crammed into vast, dark sheds with barely room to turn around and fed on a mixture of chemicals and their own droppings before, featherless, scab-covered and disease-riddled, they are put out of their misery after just six weeks of life (a chicken’s natural life-span can be as long as 15 years). These are the ‘broilers’, destined for the fast-food outlets, the catering trade, the supermarkets and most people’s digestive systems. Unsurprisingly they taste, well, foul – but that doesn’t put off the Great British Public, so bereft of discernment, intelligence, principles, compassion and empathy that the only thing that matters is the price. And, since industrial-scale poultry farming is so very profitable for Big Agribusiness, costs per bird have been driven down and down until the meat can virtually be given away. Not so very long ago a roast chicken was a rare treat for most families, but that was before the global economy was turned into today’s cruel, destructive race to the bottom and now the supine, dumb masses eat it daily and a whole generation has grown up never knowing what real chicken tastes like. If they could only be persuaded to get off their fat, lardy arses and tear themselves away from their 200 TV channels of utter garbage and their pissing-in-the-wind Facebook page, I would show such people the contented clucking, foraging, socialising, communicating and expressiveness of a flock of free-range chickens, with their fabulous plumage, alert curiosity and individual personalities, and then show them one of the nightmare concentration camps of commercial, intensively-reared chickens, shrieking in agony and terror – although even that experience would probably not deter many callous, lazy, thuggish anti-truth Brits from their addiction to salmonella, e-coli and flu-flavoured fried wings, legs and burgers.
Yes, chicken has to be free-range and organic or it is completely unacceptable. As I don’t eat the meat, this isn’t an issue for me – but eggs are, since the battery hen is treated as badly as the broiler by the poisonous poultry sector. They don’t even get a floor to shriek from; to ensure the eggs drop into automatic collectors below they’re incarcerated upon metal grids which prevent stable balance and cut their feet. Therefore any egg I buy must be free-range, organic, fresh and local – and if it were at all practical I’d visit Speckledy at her comfy hen-house and ask her permission. Anything labelled ‘free-range’ by a supermarket cannot of course be trusted (insipid, pale yoke and thin, watery albumen are the giveaways), so I will only get eggs from Riverside, Roath or Rhiwbina farmers’ markets in Cardiff (Onllwyn Eggs and Trecastle Eggs are regular stallholders). This reminds me of an old joke. A woman sees a sign outside the grocer’s saying CRACKED EGGS HALF PRICE. She goes in and says to the shop assistant “I’d like some eggs please, crack me half a dozen.”
The Welsh for egg is a delicious word in itself: ‘wy’ (pronounced ‘wee’), a two-vowel-no-consonant response to the oft-repeated jibe made about the Welsh language by ignorant Anglo-supremacist scumbags along the lines of “Welsh has no vowels”, while the four-vowel plural ‘wyau’ (pronounced ‘wee-eye’) leaves them with even more egg all over their ugly faces. Keeping a couple of hens pecking happily in the garden was once a universal practice in Wales, back in the days when people possessed useful skills and respect for other species, not to mention a garden. Over the centuries many recipes in which eggs are a vital ingredient were developed; the classic being Wyau Sir Fôn, Anglesey Eggs, an infallible, easy and economical delight. It’s so tried-and-trusted it pre-dates the 7th century Anglo-Saxon invasion of the British Isles that forced many native Britons to flee across the sea and create Brittany, meaning today’s Breton staple, Œufs à la Bretonne, is virtually identical. It’s recipe time!
WYAU SIR FÔN – ANGLESEY EGGS
Ingredients (serves 4)
6 leeks, cleaned and chopped
8 hard-boiled eggs
500g (1 lb) mashed potato
300ml (½ pint) cheese sauce*
extra grated cheese
salt & pepper
1) Steam leeks until soft, drain well, add to the spuds with a knob of butter and seasoning, beat until pale-green and fully combined
2) Put the mash in an ovenproof dish, arrange the quartered eggs across the top, cover with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the grated cheese, bake in a hot oven until the top is golden brown (about 20 mins)
*If you need telling how to make a basic white sauce then you never cook anyway.
Here’s another hilarious joke. A man with a sensitive personal problem is too embarrassed to go to his doctor or to ask at a pharmacy so buys a remedy off the shelf in the ‘health’ aisle of a Tesco superstore and takes it to one of the self-service check-outs. Unfortunately, the item will not scan. An assistant sees him struggling but it fails to scan for her too, at which point she picks up the intercom and makes a store-wide announcement for all to hear: “Gentleman at check-out six wanting a price for Own Brand stool-softener. Gentleman at check-out six wanting a price for Own Brand stool-softener.” Then she turns to the mortified bloke and asks: “Have you got a Clubcard?”
Pictures: ASPCA; Primo