An egg-straordinary tale

My latest haul of fresh eggs from a roadside barrow
One of my regular stopping points for fresh eggs
The expensive canteen of cutlery that I ruined with silver dip 26 years ago before I had chance to use it
The effect of the silver dip on the knife blades can still be seen 26 years later

I came across a story in the news this week about a woman who has hatched ducks from eggs that she bought at the supermarket. After seeing a video on YouTube, Charli Lello, aged 29 from Hertfordshire, decided to incubate some Clarence Court duck eggs from Waitrose to see what happened.

After a month in the incubator, she was amazed to hear faint cheeping from inside the eggs and, sure enough, soon three little ducklings hatched. She has named them Beep, Meep and Peep, and is raising them alongside her chickens, explaining that as she’s on furlough she has the spare time to properly look after the demanding motherless babies.

It is such an amazing story because supermarket eggs are meant to be unfertilised, and therefore this shouldn’t happen. However I have discovered that this is not always the case, especially with eggs from the Braddock White duck, which is what Charli Lello bought. Normally, male and female ducks are kept separate, but if a drake does somehow manage to get in among the ladies, he is extremely difficult to spot because he looks exactly the same as the females.

I have mentioned before how much I love eggs, and that I eat them in some form most days. I would usually choose free range eggs from local shops that are produced on a largish scale by Yorkshire suppliers. During lockdown, however, I have found a number of places where fresh eggs are available to buy from roadside barrows and they are on another level of freshness and deliciousness. The shells seem thinner and easier to break, and the yolks are a vibrant orange-yellow that you don’t often get from supermarket eggs. The colour of the yolk depends on what the birds eat, so if its diet is rich in things like natural paprika and marigold, then you are likely to end up with a very robust colour.

When I took my dad’s 5th July 1980 column out of its folder to prepare for this column, a small cutting fell from between its folds. It featured a letter from a John Boulton from Leamington Spa who had written in response to an earlier column where dad had talked about the methods of cooking an egg (you might remember me referring to it back in March). Dad’s discussion had prompted a comment about the effect eggs have on silver and the fact that if you dip a silver spoon into an egg, it will be immediately tarnished with black stains.

This happens because silver reacts with sulphur and sulphur-containing compounds, such as eggs, and once a silver item is stained in this way, it is very difficult to restore it back to its previous glory. So, with that in mind, you would think you should not use silver cutlery at all when eating eggs.

However John Boulton pointed out that these compounds are soluble in hot water, so of all the ways of cooking eggs that my dad had listed, only poaching would bring the inside of the egg into contact with hot water. Therefore, rest assured, you can still use your silver cutlery to eat a poached egg. Well thank goodness for that, I hear you cry!

This reminds me of an embarrassing story concerning a very expensive canteen of cutlery that our parents gave us as a wedding gift. A few weeks after getting married, I decided to polish the cutlery in readiness for visitors that weekend.

As there were 60 separate pieces to clean, I decided to take a short-cut and use a silver dip where you put a special solution in a bowl, chuck in your cutlery and, hey presto, it comes out sparklingly clean.

Fifteen minutes in, I checked the cutlery and to my utter horror found that every single knife blade had gone black. Although I furiously tried to polish them, the solution had stripped the blades of their layer of silver plate and, worst of all, we hadn’t even had chance to use them yet! To this day, 26 years on, the damage can still be seen.

I’ll never forget what I said to my new husband when he came home later: “You know when we got married, and we vowed ‘For better, for worse’? Well this is our very first ‘for worse’ moment.”

It took him a while, but he did see the funny side. Eventually.

Read more at Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 3rd July and the Gazette & Herald on 1st July 2020

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