Sunday, August 17, 2008

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

It's a warm summer's morning. I'm relaxed with a large iced decaf coffee from Groundwork in hand, savoring the smell of freshly popped kettle corn and lovingly gazing at stone fruit, but still walking purposefully toward him. I see him, but does he see me? The sea of visor-clad shoppers towing baskets of perfect peaches and beautiful leafy greens part, and we make eye contact.

He smiles and my heart skips a beat.

I know what he means--he's got what I want.

Yes, I am a lucky girl. Today I get my pick of four, count 'em FOUR, cartons of white, brown, and blue-green egss of varying sizes, still speckled with chicken waste. This doesn't deter me from purchasing them at all. In fact, I'm kind of excited by it. I mean, how much fresher can you get?

At any given time, you will find at least two cartons of eggs in my refrigerator. At this moment, there are actually three -- one of cage-free, large store bought eggs, and two from the farmers market. My cholesterol levels must be through the roof, right? Actually, I think it's pretty under control. I'm partial to pastured eggs which have been reported to have considerably less cholesterol than the normal eggs you find at the supermarket, and considerably more deliciousness, in my opinion. The organic, cage-free, or free-range eggs that are at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and the like are an improvement from other factory farmed eggs, but that terminology has pretty much been rendered useless. Organic simply means that the chickens are fed organic feed. Cage-free means that the little peckers may not be in cages, but they could be kept in very confined quarters with thousands of others, mutilating each other or contracting diseases. Free-range means that the chickens have access to the outdoors, but that could just be a tiny door to the yard that the chickens don't even know to go through.
I'm not saying my way is the right way, but with this knowledge, I prefer not to even deal with misleading USDA jargon and get my eggs from the farmers market. I've purchased eggs from every supplier there, and have definitely picked my favorite. There's no way I'm going to reveal its identity either, because they only have a few dozen each week and I get there before 8:30 just to increase the odds that there'll be any when I get there -- I have been disappointed MANY a time. Some days, he is all sold out by the time I get there (which is always before 9am). Other days, the chickens just haven't laid enough eggs and he has to save a couple dozen for other farmer's market vendors (See! The eggs are that good!) When I do score a dozen, my heart soars and I break out into a grin that cannot be wiped away.
Because these eggs are completely and utterly delicious by themselves, they are so suited to being prepared my favorite style -- pan fried over medium. And isn't everything better with a little oozing yolk on top? Croque madames, pastas, hash dishes... As soon as the egg lands in the heated pan, I am in awe. The slight spread of the egg white. The height and deep orange hue of the yolk. It is a sight to behold and so unlike a regular egg. And the taste? Incomparably rich. I don't need a vegetarian fed hen -- the little bugs and insects that the chickens feast on make all the difference in the color and taste of the yolk.
I still keep the standard large eggs around for baking as the volume of the pastured eggs can vary so much, but these oblong orbs of heaven are the apple of my eye (especially the blue-green Araucana variety!). Instead of standing at the kitchen counter, wolfing down a bowl of cold cereal, I create a more well-rounded meal with the egg being the highlight. I savor it at the table and sop up the smooth and creamy yolk with pita or brioche leaving nothing to waste. The ritual makes all the difference in my morning.
I'm sure an ode to such a basic food sounds excessive, but I truly love it, and for those that live to eat, shouldn't every dish spark such enthusiasm?

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