The Many Faceted Egg

Egg. Perfectly formed, self-contained, nutritious, a cradle of life … is there anything more perfect than this?

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photo credit: michal grosicki

‘Egg’ – the noun – has survived centuries of use but remains relatively unchanged from the Middle English ‘egg’ and its ancestor, the Old Norse ‘egg’. A simple word, it has contributed to a range of expressions over time: good egg, rotten egg (reportedly 1848), egg on your face (reportedly 1936), nest egg. It is part of relevant advice today: don’t put all your eggs in one basket (Cervantes in Don Quixote, 1605) and it is also an insult: go suck an egg (1930s).

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photo credit: rebekah howell

‘Egg’ – the verb – represents encouragement, e.g., egg someone on. The thing is, the Old Norse etymology of ‘egg’ is the same as ‘edge’. So to egg someone on, back in the day, was to edge someone on, i.e., to provoke or drive to the edge. Technically, therefore, you could egg an egg to the egg. But I digress.

‘Egg’ – the food – is even more, well, egg-citing. Its cooking methods are diverse: hard-boiled, coddled, poached, fried, scrambled. It is integral in souffles, custards, soups and drinks. And let’s not forget caviar.

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photo credit: john baker

‘Egg’ is a poster child of cultural diversity: Huevos Rancheros, tamagoyaki, century egg, omelette, frittata. If you’re interested, see here for international breakfast egg recipes! By the way, while a London firm claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in the 1700s, it was apparently already being served during the Mughal Empire, founded in 1526!

‘Egg’ has synonyms. Kind of. I’m thinking of ovum, roe, spawn.

‘Egg’ becomes a tool for vandalism when it is thrown at someone’s house, i.e., egging. I know of a much-hated teacher whose students once cracked raw eggs on his car; it was parked in the sun.

‘Egg’ is part of folklore and tradition. It is said to cure illnesses, hangovers and foretell the future. It symbolises new life, birth and resurrection. The Chinese, for instance, distribute hard-boiled eggs dyed red to friends and family to celebrate a baby’s first month or first year.

‘Egg’ is a decorative item – who can ignore the beauty of an ostrich egg lamp? Or a Faberge egg?

‘Egg’ has cult followings – an egg yolk called Gudetama has spawned restaurants, merchandise and a near rock star status. And who has never heard of Humpty Dumpty?

I’d love to hear how the egg features in your culture. Please do share by leaving a comment!

[references: english.stackexchange.com and www.etymonline.com]

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DAILY PROMPT ~ EGG

Noodle Auntie ~ Act of Kindness #5

For as long as we’ve lived in the neighbourhood, we’ve had Sunday brunch at the coffee shop whenever we could. It wasn’t a large shop; just seven stalls offering drinks, vegetarian noodles, congee, prawn noodles, wanton noodles, Indian food and economical rice.

We were generally happy to eat from each stall in rotation. It got to the point even the stall owners knew whose turn it was to serve us. However, the Munchkin had an affinity for the wanton noodles and often ate it for weeks in a row.

This stall was run by a couple. Uncle prepared the noodles: dry, braised, with or without chilli, cooked soft or al dente just the way the customers ordered. Auntie did the plating and garnishing, often also delivering the bowls right to the tables.

But Auntie did much more for us. Over the years, she cut the Munchkin’s noodles into short little strips so it was easy for a child to scoop with a spoon. She made Uncle boil the noodles longer so they would be softer. She added extra sauce. She smuggled out extra wantons. Later, it was vegetables. When there was a moment to spare, she would sit with us for a chat.

The Munchkin had wanton noodles the day before leaving for college. Auntie cried and offered all sorts of advice about living alone. Even Uncle, whose voice we’ve pretty much never heard, said, “Study hard!” from behind his giant soup pot.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then I’m beyond thankful Auntie (and Uncle) and my family live in the same one. Thank you, Auntie.