If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel a rising sense of panic if you look in the fridge and realize you’ve run out of eggs. Eggs have been a staple of my diet for as long as I can remember.
My mum would always cook eggs for our breakfast: soft-boiled with soldiers (strips of buttered bread we could dip into the runny yolk), fried with bacon, scrambled… a proper meal to start off the day. Eggs got me through college. Cheap, tasty and nutritious, I ate them on a daily basis with toast. I raised Monkey on eggs. When he was a toddler, scrambled eggs were a great fallback on the days I’d get home late from work and need to quickly rustle up his “tea” (what Brits call that late afternoon meal kids might eat before their parents’ dinner). And like me, he soon fell in love with soft-boiled eggs and soldiers, which he nicknamed “eggy weggy.”
Despite my love affair with eggs, I never thought too much about where they came from before they arrived in the grocery store’s refrigerator. That is, until I read Nina Planck’s “Real Food“. In her book she describes the difference in diet and lifestyles of a pastured chicken vs. a battery hen. One lives as nature intended and the other, well, think of it as chicken prison: confined quarters, no sunlight and terrible food, with the inmates prepared to fight to the death.
The thing is, you can taste the difference in their lifestyle. The yolk of eggs from unhappy chickens who live in squalor under fluorescent lights, are pale and sickly-looking, compared to the joyful richness of the golden yolk that emerges when you crack the pale blue shell of a happy, truly free range bird. These chickens are allowed to roam through fields, eating complete protein like insects, grubs and worms. In fact, at Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma, the chickens follow the path of the cows as they pasture, turning over the soil as they scratch around and ensuring the manure goes straight back into the earth.
Before we fled from San Francisco last year, I started buying Red Hill’s eggs from Wholefoods, which are typically priced over $8/dozen and can go as high as $9.50/dozen in the winter when the chickens don’t lay as much. They taste delicious, make any egg dish visually jump off the plate, and in my mind are well worth the extra dollars. I appreciate the cost is high, in which case use them sparingly and only when eggs are the main feature of a dish vs. the ingredient.
Today I’m fortunate enough to buy pastured eggs straight from Green String Farm where a dozen is an affordable $6, and occasionally I get a generous gift of eggs from a local friend. The beautiful shades of brown and blue in my egg basket make it look like a food stylist sneaked into my kitchen when I wasn’t looking.