Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller and receive a free salt and pepper set - offer ends 26 March, 2017

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Flippin’ eggs

When it comes to the issue of eggs, for a conflicted Jennifer Byrne it's a question of good versus evil.

Eggs are my issue. But not all of them, and this is the core of my problem. Life would be easier if I could just tick the dietary-requirements box that says, "no eggs" - like some people tick "no offal" or "no milk" - but this would not be correct and would deny me one of the joys of life, because a good egg makes delightful eating indeed. A bad egg, on the other hand, is an evil thing and to allow one on my plate would be a disaster, not least because it would make me physically sick.

How can one person be so conflicted about the humble egg? It makes total sense to me. Eggs belong on a spectrum that has nothing to do with their freshness and everything to do with the nature of their egginess. And, for me, the less eggy the better.

At the positive end of the spectrum is the omelette, a delicious construction that I will happily take nude, but prefer stuffed with the traditional ham-cheese-tomato combo or the way the Spanish do it, with capsicum, chorizo and a hint of chilli. Yum. This is an unreservedly good use of eggs - a perfect supper or breakfast.

A close neighbour to the omelette in tastiness is the scrambled egg, which goes particularly well with a smear of Vegemite on toast or, if I'm feeling a bit grand, smoked salmon or trout. This is not quite as good as the omelette, but it's still well up the chart. Then there's the questionable zone, occupied by the fried egg. It's all in the cooking here. A runny fried egg is okay - runny yolk, that is; the white must be crisp at the edges - preferably with lashings of bacon to help it go down. But any variation to the mix and we're in dangerous territory. Hard yolk, no. Soft white, no.

Any hint of uncooked albumen, no and no again. The simple solution, to flip the egg (over easy, I think they call it), is unsatisfactory on the grounds of both taste and aesthetics, spoiling the perfect full moon of the unflipped yolk that is the saving grace of the egg in its fried form.

It's all downhill from here. It doesn't matter how you poach an egg - cracked and dropped loose into vinegared water, or bubbling away in one of those sectioned steamers - it's still a poached egg, thus profoundly unacceptable. And no amount of fancy hollandaise camouflage dims its horror.

This egg issue was born in me, I suspect. But there's also the childhood memory of being put in charge of a flock of chickens and selling their eggs for pocket money. Deep down, I hated those chickens - mean, stupid creatures who would peck my bare toes and cover their eggs in poo. Four years at boarding school followed (you knew it was coming) where the kitchen staff would decant poached eggs into steel serving trays, then float them in warm water for hours until the tops of these egg islands skinned over like a hard plastic. When pierced by our schoolgirl teeth, they would explode in a hot yellow tide across our faces. The headmistress one day spotted me trying to conceal bits of egg beneath a mess of tuna; come dinner, I and my congealing meal were still at the table. But I would not yield.

The very worst, the font of evil, is the boiled egg. Weirdly, I quite like peeling them - there's something almost sensual about baring that smooth white surface - but eating them is unthinkable. The texture. The purity of the eggness. The very thought…

The closest I came to eating one was during my days at 60 Minutes, when a family of Cambodian refugees - people with nothing - laid their hands on the scarce treasure of four eggs, one for each in the crew. They boiled and served them with all the dignity and generosity of which humans are capable. I still couldn't do it. It went down my boot (sadly, it was soft-boiled, but it was better than throwing up).

So, you see how it works. I want my eggs in disguise, preferably smashed up or transformed by additives. It's a cruel world that tolerates hysteria over gluten, yet refuses to acknowledge the complex and mutable chemistry of the egg. But I beat on, against the current. Searching for the green light on the dock that is the perfect, unrecognisable egg.

+ Jennifer Byrne is host of ABC1's The Book Club and the Jennifer Byrne Presents series.

Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
Honey Fingers, Melbourne's inner-city beekeepers
22.03.2017
Seven recipes that shaped 1980s fine dining
21.03.2017
What is aquafaba?
20.03.2017
Eight recipes from Flour and Stone
20.03.2017
A homage to classic 1970s recipes
13.03.2017
What is teff and how should you use it?
13.03.2017
GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

See more
2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

See more

You might also like...

Hot 100 2015 - Food

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

The producers: Two Rivers Green Tea

A leading local tea exporter now offers his leaves to the do...

The producers: Colony honey

A selection of regional monofloral honeys sourced direct fro...

Liquid gold

We find ourselves inexorably drawn to salt caramel in a jar....

The producers: Atssu Divers

Hand-dived abalone, turban shell and sea urchin.

Making a scene

Entertainer Julia Zemiro notes there’s little difference bet...

Game of Thrones food

Pat Nourse caught up with George RR Martin to talk about one...

Deutscher’s Turkey Farm

When it comes to talking turkey, the best birds have lived t...

Sandor Ellix Katz Q&A

Food fermentation 'revivalist' and guru Sandor Ellix Katz di...

The producers: Alexandrina Jersey milk

Meet the producers of the creme de la creme of Australian fu...

On the pass

Looking back over the 20 years she's been in business, Phill...

Gamze smokehouse

Bringing local flavour to artisan-made bacon.

Gourmet Traveller Gourmet Fast app

Now, here's a mighty handful: GT's Gourmet Fast recipes are ...

Food emoji we wish existed

What? More than 200 new pictograms in the latest Emoji set, ...

What is jumbuck?

The jumbuck has leapt straight from the pages of Banjo Pater...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

×