It is common knowledge among those who keep poultry that birds cannot
count! To steal an egg from a clutch is therefore relatively easy if the bird is
elsewhere keeping up its own strength.
What it cannot see it will not miss.
Eggs have always tempted those with empty stomachs but tradition shunned this activity because the little tapered ovals hatched into ducks, geese, guinea-fowl, quail and chickens, ultimately providing a much more substantial meal.
Europe’s love affair with eggs began 2500 years ago when clever chickens managed to make their way from eastern Asia into the eastern Mediterranean, and were corralled in the poultry farms of the ancient Greeks and their neighbours.
Egg whites and yolks were used in various concoctions (early avgolémono and mayonnaise), whole they were boiled, fried, souffléd and sucked, used as stuffing and in sauces. Gradually eggs became integral to the baking of cakes, biscuits, breads, confections, pasta and pastries, for the making of batters and omelettes, to bind meatballs and thicken sauces, for coating and glazing, and for turning a plain hard-boiled egg into an elegant dish through the simple process of mashing the yolk with a variety of ingredients.
Throughout Europe eggs are breakfast and brunch events, ingredients in meals that transcend the ordinary, like the Danish stjerneskud open sandwich (hard-boiled egg), the Russian blini (beaten egg) the cheese toast of Switzerland (fried egg) and the Welsh breakfast (poached egg).
A battery hen’s egg generally weighs between 55 grams and 65 grams, a free-range egg between 50 grams and 60 grams, the latter richer because of the hen’s varied diet, especially if they are not coralled.