I have stopped beating myself up over which comes first, the chicken or the egg. There is however, a related conundrum which might keep me awake at night if I wasn’t in the habit of tiring myself out so much during the day. How could my father have hated hens so much and yet loved eggs?
I guess it had much to do with the fact that any bit of garden Daddy took a notion to sow, was quickly ripped up by hens doing their thing. Mammy came up with an ingenious plan one time. She made boots for the hens by cutting up an old coat and sewing cloth covering onto the sharp claws. It didn’t work: The fowl called foul and kicked off their boots before resuming the excavation in the garden. Daddy went to the pub …..
Pat Harris was known to be a wise man. I heard him say once that if a hen lived to be 100, she still wouldn’t have paid for herself! The poor humble hen got bad press from all the men back in the day – but not so with the womenfolk.
All fowl was both the property and the responsibility of Bean TÍ. She reared hens and maybe geese, ducks and turkeys; collected the eggs and sold the surplus to an egglar like Kit Fagan in Collinstown. One of the longest memories I have is of my granny in Ballinock bringing me out to the barn to gather the eggs, which she collected in her apron.
I suppose I was around three years old and remember Granny letting me put my little hand on a warm egg taken from underneath a hen which didn’t even move.
As we say, the family’s feathered friend did not get her due appreciation until recent years. Not only that, but the hen egg was thought of as a poor man’s meal – when, as we now know, the egg is the only complete meal. It has not only loads of protein, but essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own.
Egg consumption builds muscles, grows strong hair and nails and helps fight infections. Come to think of it, I seem to recall my mother using the white of an egg with a squirt of vinegar to wash her hair?
I worked in England for a time from 1965 – ’66. It seemed to me then that the UK was gone egg mad. ‘Go to work on an egg’, was the slogan of the day. TV adverts, huge advertising hoardings, and even painted on the sides of buses. This egg campaign is regarded as being the most successful sales slogan of all time.
At twenty years of age I regarded the whole egg thing as a con job. I reckoned that the landladies of England were in cahoots with the egg marketing board in a ploy to deny a hard-working Irish lad the rest of his breakfast! To me at that time an egg was only added to brighten the plate of hairy bacon and Donnelly’s sausages. Only now do I know that I was wrong and going to work on an egg (well, at least a pair of them!) was going to work on a complete meal.
I still enjoy the ‘full Irish’, courtesy of Mrs Youcantbeserious every Sunday morning, or for a treat the mornings I go to town. But now that I know the true value of the egg, the egg-cup gets full use in our house. I appreciate nothing more than a toasted fried-egg sandwich as a snack at any time and a nicely made omelette is truly a meal for any time of the day.
And speaking of ‘nicely made’ reminds me of an ongoing ‘slag’ in our family, at the expense of our brother, Sean.
Sean was on a trip to Canada. Over there, going out for breakfast is the ‘done thing’. The Canadians love their breakfast and all the different restaurants and coffee-shops have their own speciality. ‘How would you like your egg’, is the standard ceist after giving your order.
The waitress, pen waving, awaits the instruction of ‘easy over’, ‘sunny side up’, or ‘over hard.’ This is where Sean came up with the classic which threw the waitress into a tailspin of confusion. “Ah, nicely done!” sez he. Another brother translated so that the girl could get on with her job, but ‘nicely done’ has since become the Comaskey calling card!
I cannot eat a soft egg, so my instruction when ordering is that ‘the egg had better not move on the plate ‘til I touch it!’
In the belief that it would turn me into a hurler, I forced myself to swallow raw eggs from the shell when I was in my teens. This was before I took a career-break from hurling in order to concentrate on my drinking career! I couldn’t manage to do that now (no, the raw egg, Lads!) but what I can still do, is go to work on an egg!
Having no food to eat will take your mind off all other troubles.