After much ado, studies have finally determined that the egg came first. The announcement correlates with the Easter holiday. It’s a good year. Personally, spring gives me a visual of baby animals, a disgusting amount of Peeps, Jesus’ 40-day dance with the devil, green beer, that ballet by Stravinsky and James Franco with cornrows – but after that? Definitely the egg.
The egg has long been symbolic of a new life across cultures. Although Easter is a Christian holiday, customs pertaining to the egg are said to have developed from pagan practices like spring rites and the Vernal Equinox, which was on March 20th this year. The word “easter” itself comes from the name of the pagan goddess, Eostre, who is affiliated with dawn and fertility. Eventually, as Christianity became popular in Western Europe, the church adopted many pagan customs, including the representation of the egg as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ.
Other than Christianity, the Hindu scripture, Rig Veda, depicts the beginning of creation out of Hiranyagarbha or the “golden egg.” Similarly, Chinese mythology describes the giant Pangu; after resting in an egg for eons, he stretched his limbs, breaking the egg. The lighter parts of the egg floated toward the sky to become the heavens and the denser parts sunk down to become the earth, forming a ying and yang. In Egyptian mythology, it is said that when the phoenix reaches the end of its life cycle, it builds a nest that it then ignites. A new bird is born from the flames, embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg, and offers the egg to Heliopolis (the city of the sun).
I really could go on and on about eggs. Instead, here are some fun egg facts:
The White House has been hosting an “egg roll” on Easter Monday for the last 137 years. Rolling eggs is said to symbolize rolling away from the stone after Jesus’ resurrection.
Precious metals artist Peter Carl Fabergé was commissioned to create 50 decadently jeweled eggs for the Russian Tsar Alexander III to gift his wife between 1885 – 1916. In 2002, the most valuable of this collection, the 1913 “Winter Egg,” sold for $9.6 million in New York.
In the 1971 adaptation of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, the scene where Veruca Salt falls down the golden goose chute meeting her demise as a “bad egg,” was filmed on actress Julie Dawn Cole's 13th birthday (Monday, October 26th, 1970). Julie Dawn Cole was born on Saturday, October 26th, 1957. In the DVD commentary, she said 'no one wished her a happy birthday.'
Food-wise the best part about eggs is their versatility. For starters, the egg is international. The Ramen (Sato, Japan) graces the breakfast and lunch menu with ramen noodles, a soft poached egg, and pork belly. You can wash down your ramen with a Pisco Sour Peruvian from Baru. While you can’t go wrong with the egg booze combo (it tastes better than it sounds!), even better, is Baru’s Trios de Causas tapa. Served cold, this classic Peruvian small plate is comprised of all the best. The stack of purple potato, local crab, and avocado take a spin on the traditional with a quail egg garnish that will have you dreaming of the Andes.
Red Gravy also puts a foreign touch on the egg with their Sicilian Egg Pie which bakes softly shirred eggs in a puff pastry with cheese and herbs, calzone style. And it wouldn’t be NOLA without the influence of the French. Ruby Slipper slangs Croque Madame at all of their five locations. More than just a fancy ham and cheese sandwich, the Croque Madam gets served on house-made challah bread and is then topped with a fried egg and Mornay sauce.
However, nothing tops a Southern style twist on the egg breakfast. Coulis on Prytania serves up one of the best-kept secrets around with their Eggs Benedict – two jalapeno cheddar corn cakes topped with pulled pork debris, two eggs any style and a generous supply of Creole hollandaise. Enjoy with champagne from the store across the street. But for the ultimate Southern breakfast experience, Elizabeth’s takes the cake. Nestled up against Crescent City Park, Elizabeth’s might have NOLA’s most innovative egg. The Cajun Bubble and Squeak combines country bacon, cabbage, and shrimp topped with a poached egg and hollandaise. If that’s too much, go for the simpler Red Neck Eggs – poached eggs with fried green tomatoes and hollandaise. So. Bomb.
Obviously, the egg’s biggest claim to fame is breakfast, but why stop there? A fried egg can dress up a burger, get scrambled into a stir-fry or even top a pizza. Chef Matt Murphy at Irish House isn’t opposed to taking the egg to dinner and the pay-off is to die for. Crispy potato cakes and slow cooked short ribs are served with a fried egg and then generously drizzled with Andouille gravy for a decadent approach to dinner. What could be better? A close second is a risotto. Cooked with wild mushrooms and aged Parmesan fennel cream, the cherry on top of chef Murphy’s Shrimp and Artichoke Risotto is none other than a perfectly poached egg.