Don't know why...
There's no sun up in the sky...
Billie Holiday crooned on the car stereo. The rain pelted the windshield with big, fat, juicy drops. The interior of the car was warm and dry--a cozy bubble travelling through a chilly, soaking wet spring morning. Everywhere hazes of fresh green and the pale purple of the flowering redbud trees softened the horizon. I was on my way to Leesburg to see a man about some eggs.
I woke up this morning with a craving for eggs. But not just any eggs, specifically Haskins Family Farm eggs. I know, weird right? Having a craving for eggs seems odd enough, but eggs from a particular seller? I mean, eggs are eggs, right?
Eh, no. I haven't eaten supermarket eggs in more than two years now. For a long time, I was a lucky recipient of my former boss and friend Jacki's chicken's eggs, but she left her job and now we don't see each other as often (sigh--and not just for the eggs). I had to find another source, because reading Omnivore's Dilemma and watching Food, Inc. basically turned me off industrial food and especially animal products.
So I went to the winter farmer's market in Leesburg (discovered thanks to a Washington Post article I read a couple years ago). I tried eggs from a few different sources there, and most were excellent (although I did get a batch once that tasted strongly of fish; it was so revolting I actually had to throw the eggs out). But I always wanted to try the Haskins's eggs, but every time we got to their stand either to pick up our CSA chicken or to buy some of their amazing bacon, they were always out. But, finally, a couple of weeks ago, they had some left, and I bought a dozen. What a treat to open the box and find a lovely assortment of eggs in various shades of white, brown, and green; one was a tiny, speckled thing that seemed (nearly) too pretty to eat.
I got them home and decided to try some right away. I fried eggs, sunny side up, to serve on buttered toast--a simple dish I make several times a week for breakfast or lunch (and sometimes when in a hurry, dinner). Something was different about these eggs. When I cracked them, the yolk was an orangey yellow, the richest color I'd ever seen in an egg yolk (and remember, I have been eating excellent eggs for years ow), and the white didn't spread out all over the pan, but instead assembled itself into a neat oval around the yolk. I was enamored of the beauty of this egg, but the proof was in the cooking and the tasting. It cooked more evenly than many eggs that I have cooked. I didn't have the issue with a slightly runny white (yuck) when the yolk was cooked as much as I wanted it to be cooked. Then I ate it. In the same way a chicken that eats bugs and runs around freely tastes "chickenier," the egg tasted eggier. And the rich, unctuous mouth feel of the yolk was beautiful. This was why I found myself out in the pouring rain without an umbrella this morning, because I just had to have those eggs!
Soaking wet and returning home with my haul of two dozen eggs, I decided to test whether there really was a difference. After all, I haven't seen or eaten one in a long time. So I stopped at a local grocery store and picked up a dozen standard commercial eggs to do a side-by-side comparison (see the photographs). The yolk of the Haskins egg had a deeper color, and the white had greater viscosity and tended not to spread out as much. Next to it, the industrial egg looked anemic, and the white spread out in a most unappealingly watery way.
I am afraid I didn't do a one-to-one taste test. For one thing, I wasn't sure I could fairly judge the taste given that I would know which egg was which. But truthfully, my motives were less pure than a desire for fairness. The industrial egg simply gave me the willies. I even hesitated about adding it to the compost heap, but that's where it eventually ended up. The Haskins egg went into a pan with some olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and white pepper, and then served on toast. Yum.
|The egg on the right is the Haskins egg. Note the deeper color and its general perkiness.|
|On the industrial egg side, the white spread out like water over most of the plate.|