|Auntie Cracks the Code|
Last night while dining out, the subject of eggs came up and my Japanese friend told me that in Japan there are vending machines that dispense eggs and that eggs older than a day or two are considered too stale to eat. She went on to say that in this region it's hard to find eggs fresh enough to eat raw, her proof of the desirable freshness being the white of the egg standing proud and firm and high.
|Pretty Eggs in the Menton Market|
Well, eggs are sold differently in France, not from vending machines but at the village market and in these charming surroundings you can always find eggs, either from a specialist like Gilbert in the Monaco market (The Auntie Times April 2004) or from a fruit and vegetable vendor who may sell a surplus egg or two from her own hens.
I remember the first time I went to a grocery store in France and being shocked to see all the eggs stored on a shelf, not in a refrigerator. I've since learned that in France, after the freshly layed eggs are collected they are not washed with soaps or other chemicals as they are in Canada, the theory being that this protects the insides of the egg from spoiling or being contaminated with salmonella or other dangerous microbes. Old habits die hard, mine I mean: I always buy my eggs from an egg specialist in the market unless it's an egg emergency.
Eggs are often the subject of conversation with my foodie friends. Whether or not to buy from this vendor or that one, where to find white eggs for colouring at Easter, white eggs being a rarity here. My good friend Meghan travels all the way to a different village to buy her eggs, faithful to her own cherished "egg lady" and her always excellent eggs. Last year I had a mini scandal because my egg vendor in Menton was selling eggs with a sign that said, "plein air" but the code stamped on the egg said otherwise. Feeling betrayed, I stopped buying his eggs immediately.
|Happy Hens or not?|
I'm not sure which came first, consumer demand for all of this detailed information stamped on eggs or consumers using the information on the stamps to make a choice about which eggs to buy.
French hens or not? Hens kept in cages or not? Hens kept indoors or outdoors? How many hens to the square metre? Phew! The information contained in French egg codes is voluminous but decipherable. If you are ever in France and want to know which eggs to buy, I found the key to the French Egg Codes on the Committee for the Promotion of Egg Consumption Website.
So, what did I learn about the eggs on the top of the page? ... the eggs are free of imperfections (A), were layed in France (FR), by a hen (O), who ate 90% organic feed (0), and each hen lives in 4 square metres of grassy open air space (1) in which to peck happily. Omelet here we come!
As for my black-listed egg vendor in Menton, he has a new egg on offer (the one in the photo on the top of the page) and he's now off the boycott list - I'm now buying his new and excellent eggs for a lofty sum of €3.90 for 6. Are his eggs worth the price? I'd have to say, "yes!" They taste fresh, fruity, buttery, and the egg white is proud and firm. I think my Japanese friend would like them.
OK, he's forgiven.
OK, he's forgiven.