The Big R has given me the gift of time and I get to spend that time on important projects such as knitting egg cozies, preserving lemons, making vanilla extract and lining drawers. Everyone knows that if you don’t line kitchen drawers within one month of moving to a new place, it’s one of those projects that realistically never gets done – unless one retires!
Let’s start with the egg cozies. Every respectable soft-boiled egg needs an egg cozy. Cozies are the little hats that keep one egg warm while the other is being eaten with toast soldiers because one never eats just a single soft-boiled egg. We have two linen cozies that match our breakfast china (yep!), and making a set for the second egg has been on my to-do list for years. We have one cozy that was probably knitted by Cedric’s mother but it’s very small, proof that everything in the last 50 years has simply got bigger. We even have some egg cups that belonged to Cedric’s parents, but our super-sized eggs perch on the opening and threaten to topple off as soon as you approach with a spoon. I replaced our egg cups recently – whopper-sized ones that fit the eggs now laid by modern chickens. The Big R means we often have time for soft-boiled eggs for breakfast. And because many Americans don’t know what I’m talking about, here are the instructions:
Bring water to boil in a medium-sized saucepan. For two people, remove four eggs from refrigerator – that’s in the U.S. In England, it’s more common not to refrigerate eggs and one can buy cute wooden egg holders to keep on the kitchen counter. In the U.S., as soon as an egg pops out, it gets shampooed. (I’m not making this up.) The soap removes the natural barrier on the egg shell, which makes the egg more susceptible to bacteria, which is why U.S. eggs are generally refrigerated. Pierce the bottom of the egg – the rounder end – with an egg piercer. These are little gadgets with a pin that pierces the shell and lets out any air so that when the air expands, it won’t crack the shell. (Again, I’m not making this up.) I often add a few shakes of bicarbonate of soda to the water. That’s an old wives’ tale but apparently if there’s a crack, it stops the egg white from seeping out. My mother always lit a match, blew it out and dropped the match into the water and I do that as well. If an egg has a faint crack, I’ll cover it with Scotch tape – that works, I promise.
Slowly lower your pricked eggs into the water, bring back to the boil and reduce heat to low simmer – that means just a few bubbles now and then. Now comes the tricky part. How long do you boil an egg? I time them for six minutes for mine and seven minutes for Cedric’s. I like my yolks very soft and he prefers them a bit firmer. It’s always a happy surprise when they are a perfect consistency. Remove from the water, place in the egg cup and pop the cozy on top. Meanwhile, you have made toast and put salt on the table. For anyone raised eating soft-boiled eggs, the next step is easy. For foreigners, it takes some practice – like many things. For example, I’m great at handling soft-boiled eggs, but I can’t use chopsticks – that’s also on my to-do list and I heard you can buy versions with a rubber band on the end to make it easier to wield them. I digress – back to the eggs. With a small teaspoon, softly crack the top of the egg and gently remove the top half-inch or so. That reveals enough egg to start. Pour some salt on the edge of the plate, place the back of the spoon on the little mound of salt, some grains should adhere to it, and break the yolk with your spoon, carefully, without letting it flood over the edge of the egg. Butter the toast and cut it into strips – those are the soldiers. Poke the soldiers into the yolk – YUM! When one finishes one egg, it’s traditional to turn the empty egg shell upside down in the egg cup and shout, “I don’t want my egg!” At which your mother will reprimand you and then you take your spoon and whack the empty shell so that it caves in. Repeat above steps with second egg.
See below for picture of one of the new egg cozies. I’ll talk more about the other projects next time, but I leave you with this little ditty, which should be sung very loud:
How does a hen know the size of an egg cup when she lays her egg?
With no egg cup beside her, nothing whatever to guide her?