Girl with a Basket of Eggs, by Joachim Beuckelaer, early 17th Century
The egg is the perfect physical embodiment of the concept of transformation in one, neat package of potential. Back in my farm days I never tired of tending an incubator full of eggs, monitoring temperature and humidity, tracking every time I turned the eggs (2-4 times per day) on a spreadsheet, counting down the days until the hatch began. The eggs didn’t change in appearance, but inside, miracles were occurring.
By marking one side of each egg (these are turkey eggs) with an X I knew which side was up.
After 3-4 weeks (exactly how long depends on what kind of poultry I was hatching), the eggs began to twitch and vibrate as the inhabitants started plotting their escapes. Soon, muffled peeping began to emanate from the incubator. Using a knobby bit on the tops of their beaks (called an egg tooth), the hatchlings hammered upward, piercing the shells and not stopping until tiny cracks and holes formed a ring around the fatter end of the shell. The following two videos show the final step in this process when the little one would crack off the lid of the egg and splurt out (these are turkey poults).
During the days of rapid growth and change during incubation, the yolk provided all the energy needed to transform the fertilized egg into a fully formed creature capable of escaping from a claustrophobic prison. After a short rest during which they dried off and fluffed up, they were ready to eat, drink, and run about with surprising enthusiasm.
We kept a mixed flock of hens, in part because we enjoyed the range of colours and textures they produced in their egg shells. Depending on what the hens were eating, the yolks ranged in colour from canary yellow to deep, dark orange.
One of the hatchlings, all grown up. And, yes, the fact my beak was beginning to match the chicken’s is not lost on me. It’s a good thing I left farming when I did or I might have started sprouting feathers.
It’s hardly surprising that eggs, being of a particularly satisfying shape and containing, as they do, the cosmically mysterious beginnings of life have made many appearances in art.
Still Life: Jug and Eggs by Roger Fry
They are also a familiar sight in most kitchens. Every morning I make gluten free muffin-esque bun thingies, each of which contains an egg. They are substantial enough that having one with cheese or nut butter sustains me through a morning of writing. Here’s the recipe:
Nikki’s Gluten Free Breakfast Bun Thingies
1 T olive oil
1/2 mashed banana
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 T ground flax seed
1 T almond flour
1/2 T coconut flour
1 T shredded coconut (optional)
1 T finely chopped walnuts (optional)
Mix together the egg, oil and banana. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Spray a 2 c-size ramekin with olive oil-based cooking spray (I’ve also used olive oil to grease the ramekin, but don’t find that works quite as well).
Pour the mix into the ramekin and microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
You can either eat these hot and soft or cut in half (or thirds, if yours rises a lot – this varies a bit) and toast before serving with your choice of butter, cheese, nut butter, honey, or jam.
There is so much going on in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch it’s hardly surprising I didn’t remember this detail until I went looking for examples of eggs in art…
What’s your favourite way to prepare eggs? I like them pretty much any way they can be served except, weirdly enough, Eggs Benedict. Keep that in mind should you ever have me over for brunch…
Did you know it takes a hen 24 – 26 hours to make a single egg? Old Woman Selling Eggs, by Hendrick Bloemaert (1632)