LADY GLENCORA PALLISER is said by Mr. Trollope to have displayed a profound unconcern as to the number of eggs consumed in Paris every morning, irreverently declaring to her husband, Mr. Palliser, the Duke of St. Bungay's Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the information was worth nothing unless he could tell her how many of them were good and how many bad. Perhaps, however, the special proclivity of Paris to the consump- tion of eggs, the modes of dressing which in that brilliant capital are said by a recent writer * on the subject of eggs to be no less than 685 in number, is a fact not altogether without interest apart from the inquiry as to the number of successful and unsuccessful eggs which are daily made proof of. To an enlarged mind it is rather the numberless capabilities which the swift Parisian intellect detects in egg, than the mere incident of gratification or disappoint- ment, that furnishes the subject of interest. Nay, the very fact that there is, as it were, a suspense and a development as to the interior of the casket, a possible tragedy in the denouement, gives a fresh human interest to eggs as an article of consumption which does not hang round fully manifested food. But what causes the Parisian reputation of egg is no doubt its immense
L adaptability to different circumstances of the culinary art. Easily manageable either in the liquid or the solid form, it serves alike for secondary and for primary purposes. You may recognize its substantial and independent existence as an individual article of
* How to Cook and ,Serve Egg:. By Georgians Hill. Rontitige and Bona. food, in which form it is indeed a more complete and graceful whole than any other object consumed by man ; or secondly, you may make many eggs contribute and blend their substance into a homogeneous whole, that loses none of the properties of the indi- vidual, any more than the lake loses the properties of the rivers which supply it; or finally, you may use it for merely secondary and subsidiary ends, to penetrate and enrich and flavour neutral solids, serving for puddings and confectionery the same, and more than the same, purpose which common yeast serves for bread. The artistic Parisian eye catches rapidly these advantages, and hence the devotion of Paris to the culinary treatment of egg.
In the first place, what object so elegant, so natural a unit of appetite, if the expression may be allowed, and yet so capable of artificial enhancements, as an egg still in its shell—a pure white ellipsoid—which in a shining silver or china cup reminds. the eye of the natural beauty of the acorn snugly lying hr its own cup, though suggesting at the same moment the great advantages both in kind and quality which the consumer of the one has over the prodigal who was reduced to attempt the aaaimilation of the other. The mere symmetry of the egg (to any one, that is, who adopts the obviously natural principle of the Narrow-endians, and puts the acute end of the ellipsoid upwards, allowing it to rest upon the Big-end), is in itself a fascination to the mind of a true artist. It is the only article of real nutrition which resembles fruit in being appropriated naturally and with- out division to a single consumer. Meat must be carved, the limbs of fowls must be dislocated, bread broken or cut, and cheese scooped or quarried out ; only in the egg, amongst things that will support life and health, do we obtain a fair natural whole the symmetry of which need not be broken by division. No doubt it requires art both to furnish and eat an egg so as not to jar upon this sense of natural harmony. There should be no painful sus- pense in the last stage of preparation for eating, no danger of any painful eclaircissement on the breaking of the egg, no risk even of discovering the " no*" of a " pudding " or " shop " egg of that half doubtful sort which recalls the antiquarian scent of a dusty library, and suggests, very erroneously,—in- deed in direct opposition to the truth,—that the egg would have been better for a more thorough ventilation. On the con- trary, the egg should display first a layer of white resembling rather- the solid froth of Devonshire cream than the smooth, semi-trans- lucent white of ordinary albumen, and next a cocoon of yolk pro- perly ' set' at the circumference and becoming fluid only towards the centre. This is not only nicer, but much easier to eat with-. out those indecorous overflows of yolk on to the plate, that suggest- to a spectator of the ruins of a breakfast that a number of artiste have been making a prodigal use of " King's yellow," and left their palettes littering the table. The beauty of an egg cooked in its shell consists in its individual unity; and even in the process of consumption every care should be taken not to let it sprawl and overflow like sauce or gravy. All the sand egg-glasses give at least a minute too little for proper boiling, and it is the use of these delusive instruments, or the fatal impression which they tend to spread that three minutes is full time for the boiling of a new- laid egg, (possibly it may be for a shop egg of ambiguous charac ter, if such a thing is to be boiled at all), which so often implants a kind of despair in the minds of very respectable cooks as to the art of boiling eggs. We hive known an otherwise very estimable cook maintain that nature and education had conspired to render her incompetent to the task of boiling eggs, and this with an abject fatalism more suitable to a Mahometan than a Christian. The simple truth is, that she had never learned that the time requisite for boiling an egg varies inversely as its own age and directly as its size,—a really new-laid hen's egg of average size requiring at least four minutes in boiling water, more if it be very big, and less if it be very small. We doubt, too, whether the English cooks are aware of, what is well known, we believe, to Parisian cooks, that a fresh egg well roasted is a far richer thing than the same egg well boiled. An egg turned round on the hearth till it is
thoroughly done is perhaps served in the best form of which it
is susceptible, to those at least who like rich food. Of the other solid forms of egg, perhaps the best is the hard-boiled
that is eaten with salad. There is a peculiarly happy con- trast between salad and egg, both in colour and edible qualities, which recommends this combination to the true artist. Salad is refreshing exactly because it is so itmutri- tious, but then for that reason it suggests browsing and purely pastoral ideas without the balance of the most nutritious of all
substances that are not positively meat. Egg mediates between the salad and the cold meat with which it is eaten, breaks the abruptness of the change to the luncher's imagination, and
pleasantly stars the table with- ar contrast of colours whieh other,- wirseis: never obtained except from fruit. As • for the aatificial:
modeaof treating soli& eggea--those, we mean, which substitute- some artificial comp:mull for the yoke, leaving the white envelope' in' its natural fonm, —they appeal only to the morbid desire.for.
surprises which: marks the decadence of true art. Take this, for instance, called; vaaauppose from. the Morning, because the jaded appetite of amepicare aalesst fictive in. the morning, and needs the_ most stimulus ab thatatimer,— " (Rime L'.Avnoss..
"Boil some .eggs nntibtherare hard. Remove the shells, cut focal egg into half,,and scoop out the yolks; put these into a marten, with some pepper, salt, savoury herbs, and.cream. Beat an to a paste; place some of it in each halved white of- egg, and lay the remainder in, a buttered dish; arrangeAhe.stuffed eggs• ontthe.top.with the• foram:tea& uppermost.. Place the dish in a, moderately heated oven, and serve_ when. the eggs are nicely browned."
What would an intelligent hen say to that ? You might just. as.well.put strawberry ice in theinterior of a penny roll, or fill a cup with gold, pieces, or excavate a history and stuff its frame- work, with sensation_ novel.
In dealing. with. the secondary form of egg, in which. many bi- dividual eggs are. made tributary to abstract egg,—the omelette form,—there is more to be said for artificial treatment. The individuality of the thing has already escaped, and the mixture with other alien substances is at this stage only a. question. of more or less. The danger of omelette is richness, and the tendency to mix freely with butter is excessive in omelette- makers, and as objectionable as excessive. Egg is too nu- tritious to. be greased. You might just as well butter your meat. The most that is permissible in this way is the very slight use of butter which is made in those little toasted "dice used for. soup. There the butter is not apparent,—it has im- parted &flavour, but left no physical trail. And the following receipt for omelette will be found at once one of the simplest and best in the little book before us:—
" OKELICITE AUX CROUTONS.
"Beat the yolks of six and the whites of four eggs ; season with salt and spice according to taste. Cut some nice little pieces of bread no larger than diet+. fry.them in butter till they are well browned, then throw them quickly-into boiling gravy-or milk,.or sauced any partici), lar flavour; mix them.with the beaten egg, and fry as an ordinary omelette."
The vast use of egg in merely enriching other substances, in cakes, puddings, soups, &c., is, we think, overdone, both in this country and abroad: There is not a viler decoction known to human art than that which is called egg-soup in Germany, where masses of greasy yelkow substance, floating. like very putrid duckweed. in a watery fluid, are offered to you at the beginning of dinner, to destroy- your chance of eating anything afterwards. If yolk of egg is used separately from the egg at all, it should be diffused and made a sort of yeast, as it is in cakes and puddings. Crumbs of yolk are,chaotic and rather revolting spectacles. But we doubt whether its secondary enriching use is not greatly over- done in modern cookery. Custard is by far its best form, because it is its most honest form. Very eggy puddings,, and very eggy cakes, are overpowering ; like drawing-rooms with too heavy a scent in them, they call. the attention too much to a:seeondary influence which is properly meant to blend absolutely with the primary. Eggs used freely as yeast is used. in other food remind one of "a very picturesque style used not in describing facts, but in illustrating opinions. The style overpowers the substance as the egg so often overpowers the pudding. Thus Macaulay wrote what we may call a very eggy style when be illustrated political principles. His style was made for description, and when he applied it to discuss abstract politics his discussions tasted' like a pudding too rich with egg.
On the whole we regard eggs as best in the beautiful in- dividuality of the egg-shelL and degenerating in proportion as they are made subservient to other food: They have too much indiaidiudity for the work of yeast. The egg is the only unit of animal, food; and has a pronounced taste in pro- portion to its unique character and' shape. Like meat, it is scarcely well adapted' for flavouring other things than itself. It has too dominating a nature of its own. Egg in the abstract should' be very sparingly used in cookery, or it will suggest itself obtrusively. Egg, is admirable in a substantive form, but in an adjective form not so. Eggy compounds soon revolt.