I have been spending a lot of time considering the wonder of chicken eggs, a common, every day, and mostly unnoticed but quite ancient food. Some of my friends are beginning to smirk - or at least look twice and pull just a little bit back - whenever I bring up the subject of .... chicken eggs.
Yes I did say eggs. And to be more specific I should say, chicken eggs, as that has been my most recent and most encompassing adventure.
This is not a random perseverance on my part. It comes as an outgrowth of some serious study or, maybe study is too strong a word, let’s try observation and interaction with a group of chickens that I meet and greet every morning and afternoon with salutation like, "Good morning ladies! How are my girls?" To which they actually respond with excited clucks and coos and some flapping of wings and scampering to follow me wherever I might be going, knowing that in the past it has led to goodies.
They are good girls, kind, talkative, thoughtful – I think, but I'm not really sure – and quite attentive. They seem happy to see me and to have me greet and talk to them like old friends. And they have a lot to tell me about what is on their mind as well.
But in the back of their sweet feathery faces and occasional bizarre hairdos is a remarkable ability to produce something quite wonderful. They produce an egg. And not just one in a lifetime, which I think would be a great accomplishment for anyone. They produce one almost every day.
So I have become a little fascinated when I go into the coop and pick up these random white, brown, reddish, greenish, speckled or smooth, perfect oval stones, warm and dry, heavy with all of the bounty of pending life floating inside them.
A Bard rock clucks at my right arm, and looks up at me, questioning if I will return her night's work to the nest where it belongs, or if I will take it away once again to some undisclosed location of my own.
She looks and blinks, clucks, and stands. I pat her back; she stoops to receive, then wanders off, realizing this is a lost matter.
The first time I filled a basket with these fresh-out-of-the-bird warm chicken eggs and brought them up to the kitchen to cook, I broke the eggs and watched the bright yellow yolk stand tall and fresh in the pan while the clear gelatinous albumin made its transformation into the cooked whites of a fried egg.
It was then I realized that I could not eat these things. Maybe for the first time in my life I recognized what it was I was eating.
I stand at the stove with these calcified shells in my hand and think about how they got there.
Each egg started as a single cell ovum of a chicken, stored in her ovaries since her own birth, dropped one at a time, one day at a time, and each descending through a fleshy chicken tube, collecting goo and slime off the walls of this strange creature’s menstrual apparatus, a slime that builds and accumulates into a mass that would repel any living creature if it were not for the final and remarkable packaging that these birds had devised to disguise and decorate what in actuality was a disgusting mass of chicken mucus slipping from her reproductive bowels.
I scoop the cooked egg up with a plastic spatula and put it on a lovely Italian plate alongside two strips of smoked Canadian bacon and served it to Tina.
"You're not having one," she asks, breaking through the yolk, letting the soft cooked egg flow over the plate as she lifts her fork with a section of yellow tainted egg-white to her mouth.
"I think I'll hold for now. Not much of an appetite. How is it?" I reply, turning off the stove.
"Oh my God, it's delicious," she says, wiping a spot of yolk from the corner of her mouth. I look away. I have to admit, all I could think about was the back end of the Bard rock and the oval canal from which this egg had descended.
"I'm so glad. I have lots more where that one came from. One another?"
"Absolutely," she says with gusto.
Ignorance is enviable, I think to myself as I reach for another egg, a Leghorn’s pure white shelled, and crack it into the pan.
What other animal or living creature produces and ejects a solid dry object from its body complete, symmetrical, and perfect in its form and shape, diverse in its presentation depending on the particular breed? And these girls do it with such understated grace and ritual. The chicken egg. The remarkable chicken egg.
So, yes, I have been spending too much time thinking about and participating in the ancient and common ritual of the egg.
I have been waking up, anticipating who in the barn will be producing their egg for the first time, how we will all welcome her into her chicken-womanhood.
And yes, finally thinking about breaking open those beautiful perfect shells and letting their content fall into the pan were it fries up into the most delicious egg I have ever tasted.
Yes, I am finally able to eat the egg my ladies leave me. I eat them for their remarkable taste, for their fresh and untainted nourishment, and maybe because it is my way of saying ‘thank you ladies’ to my very sweet friends.
Spring is not far away. It's time to think of the new season. I think I'll put another chick order in for some Red Stars and Delaware's, maybe even some Araucanas. They have those amazing robins-egg-blue shells. They will sit well in a carton with the Leghorn’s whites and the Barred Rocks browns, and the speckled reds…
I am so glad to see that by the time I got to the end of your story I didn't have to convince you to eat your chicken eggs that your girls are giving you every day.
Yes, if you think too hard about it, many perhaps wouldn't eat them. But then if you think about the meat on your plate and what you are eating and where it has come from, again, it becomes a little too close to home.
Enjoy your chicken eggs, and take joy in the fact that you are one of the lucky ones who knows what they are eating on their plate; good clean food that is untainted and unadulterated.