19 September 2009


I've said many times in my life that if my doctor ever tells me I have to give up eggs, I will tell her to just shoot me now.

I can't think of a way I don't like eggs. Scrambled is good; an omelet is even better. Sunny side up is lovely. Runny yolks are fabulous if you have toast or biscuits to clean the plate up; firm yolks have a savory substantiality* that's filling beyond words. Poached: a childhood favorite that still can make me feel illogically, happily serene. Hard boiled (or even better, medium-boiled, so the yolks are firm but still golden and not crumbly), piping hot and mushed in a bowl with butter and pepper: comfort food.

Egg salad.** (Tuna salad.) French toast. Boiled custard. Somewhere around here there's a recipe for a disgustingly yummy baked egg casserole with sliced boiled eggs, a creamy sauce, and a crushed potato chip topping. Deviled eggs... I used to embarrass my mother at church suppers, sampling a deviled egg or two from each of the six or eight or ten plates from various kitchens. The deviled eggs were a whole course, as far as I was concerned. I could eat a dozen at a sitting. And I'm not saying a dozen stuffed halves. I'm talking about a dozen eggs, each split and stuffed.

A woman I know has grandchildren who love eggs. She left two dozen in the condo refrigerator when her son and his family stayed there this summer - and the kids ate all of them in less than two days. But when she bought a special treat - fresh eggs from an actual chicken-owner - they complained that the eggs tasted "too eggy."

Eggs that are too eggy. Sad. Pass 'em over here, kid. I can take care of that.

We get our eggs from the Egg Guy. I can never remember his name, although eventually, I'll learn it. He has a booth at two different farmer's markets here in town - one on Wednesday afternoons and one on Saturday mornings. He also sells local, pasture-grazed meat and poultry, fresh garlic, and garlicky stuff like a wonderful garlic-scape pesto - but the eggs are the main thing. He has several different breeds of chickens, and he packs out his eggs in clear cartons so you can see the colors of the shells - everything from a dark-brown-sugar color to a pale minty green, and always an even mix of four to six colors. The carton labels are printed on a home computer color printer; they have bright-pastel chickens grazing in grass, and rainbow-colored type.

A few weeks ago, we started hearing a rooster in the morning. We already knew you can have livestock here in the city limits - my daughter has a friend who keeps chickens, and we've spotted two different addresses with goats in the back yard - but a rooster was a little bit of a surprise. For one thing, the rule is that you have to have at least an acre to keep a rooster.

Then one morning as I left for work, I noticed a chicken pen in the far back corner of the next-door neighbors' back yard. I still didn't connect it with the rooster - all I saw was two hens, one brown and one reddish. Pretty cool, I thought.

The rooster was never a bother. We'd hear him when we were already up, getting ready for work, and he'd generally crow once or twice, and that would be it. I was curious about the chickens, but not enough to go out of my way to find out.

A couple of Saturdays ago, Tammy - the mom next door - waved down my daughter and me as we got out of our car. She wanted to know if the rooster was bothering us.

"Oh!" we laughed. "Is this where the rooster lives?" We assured her that we hadn't been bothered at all - that he apparently slept in relatively late for a rooster, and we were usually up before he was.

Turns out, her youngest son, a high-school senior, had come home from the state fair with three chickens. They were keeping the rooster in the garage, but Tammy was having a tad bit of distress over the potential for ticking off the neighbors.

Now I will grant you, my dear husband is a little mystified at the notion of livestock next door, but it doesn't really bother him as long as (a) it doesn't smell and (b) he doesn't have to look after it. For me, it's just one step closer to where I'd love to be sometime before I die. I have my garden, I have my dogs and my big yard and my roses, and I have my kitchen with plenty of counters and a farmhouse-style sink. All that's left is a view of something more than other brick houses and neighbors' landscaping, and a driveway long enough that it makes more sense to get out the bike than to walk all the way to the mailbox.

I don't know that I want chickens. In fact, I've never liked them, up close and personal. My great-uncle took me out to feed them once when I was about three or four, and the rooster - who was almost as tall as I was - thought I might make a nice lunch. I was traumatized, and ever since, I've said the only way I like chickens is dead on a plate. Having them next door, though, isn't bad at all, and I may offer to feed them if the neighbors go out of town for a weekend.

Now, goats - that's different. Goats and dogs get along famously. Goats are personable, and although my experience is that you'd probably do best to keep them well away from the clothesline and the rose bushes, there's only a hair of truth behind the idiom, "smelly as a goat." The bucks do smell pretty randy after they've reached puberty, but the only reason to have a buck is for breeding purposes. And the best way to do that is to pay someone a fee to keep your doe for a few days and let her get acquainted with their buck.

Some people don't care for goat milk - I'll grant you, it's pretty rich - but most of the negative reviews I've heard are along similar lines as saying local eggs taste "too eggy." My youngest child lived on goat milk from the time I stopped nursing him (right after the second tooth came in) until he was about three. Cow's milk and milk-based formulas shredded his digestive system, but we had friends who had friends who had goats, and we traded garden produce for milk once a week. I don't remember what we traded in the winter, but there was always something that worked.

Goat cheese is soft and creamy, savory but not tart or sharp. Goat's milk yogurt is less sour than cow's milk yogurt. And they both mix nicely if you want to put them in your scrambled eggs.

There's not much can compare with an eggy-milky omelet.


*Substantiality [sub-stan-chi-al-i-ty]: My blog, my vocab, and if necessary, my word coinage. Remember? :-)

**Super Easy Eggy Salad
6 eggs, hard boiled, cooled and peeled (fresh from the egg guy are best)
1-1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2-3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (I'm currently using Sweet Dillies from CC's Kitchen in Crestwood, KY - contact info available on request - but if you love it, it's perfect!)

Dump in bowl. Mash everything together with a fork or egg-chopper until it's a soft, moderately lumpy mess. Heap on slabs of whole-grain bread and stuff into your face. The sweet pickles, zingy mustard, and savory eggs balance each other to make the most comforting, flavorful sandwich imaginable.

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