Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ode to the Humble Egg

I love eggs. Each little self contained unit, so perfectly formed, contains the promise for a delicious meal. I love the color of their shells, whether they are brown and freckled, light tan, the blue-green of Araucana chickens, or pure white. I especially love when I crack one open to reveal a double yolk. That happens often when I buy my eggs from the farmers market. Farmers market eggs are unequivocally more delicious and nutritious that their supermarket counterparts. Chickens that are allowed to roam freely and eat greens and insects, as well as grains, produce eggs that contain more vitamins and minerals and have a lower "bad" cholesterol count that most store-bought eggs. Professional chefs love them because their yolk, when cracked into a hot pan, sits higher, and they blend more easily to make a creamy emulsion for vinaigrettes or mayonnaise.

It is simple really; healthy chickens produce healthy and delectable eggs. In California on election day this November 4th, we will be able to decide on a ballot measure (Proposition 2) that would mandate that all farmed animals be able "to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs." Proponents of the measure say that it protects the health of both the chickens and those who eat them, protects family farmers from large-scale egg production ranches, and protects the environment. But what would the consequences of this measure be?

If Proposition 2 passes, egg supplies would go down and prices would go up, increasing the probability that cheaper eggs would be imported from other states (without such regulations) or Mexico, increasing the chances of bird flu or salmonella. Many farmers would be driven out of business or move out of state, damaging the local economies in which they are located. As pundit George Skelton says, "I'm for chicken compassion. But I feel more compassionate about the chicken farmer in this bankrupting economy."

As a consumer, and supporter of sustainable agriculture and humane treatment of livestock, I feel very torn about this measure. But the conclusion that I have come to is that Californians need to vote with their dollars and support the farmers who practice humane livestock treatment, rather than pass this ballot measure that would cause immeasurable harm to both farmers and consumers. If people are willing to shell out more money for healthier eggs, more farmers would be willing to convert their farms to these kinds of practices.

I will jump off my soap box and share a recipe for a favorite egg dish. Mexicans swear by its hang-over healing properties, and it is often served "the morning after." I do love it for breakfast, but it makes a delicious, quick dinner as well.


12 dry and hard tortillas

3 eggs

4 large tomatoes

1/2 cup water
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove

3 serrano or jalapeno chiles
5 tablespoons corn oil
1 cup of grated jack cheese

Boil tomatoes and chiles until soft. Mix them in blender with the garlic and water. Heat 1 tbsp of oil and fry this paste, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Cut the tortillas in strips with a pair of kitchen scissors. Heat 4 tbsp of oil and fry the tortilla strips until crispy. Drain oil and add the three eggs to pan. Stir strips and eggs quickly so they don't stick to the pan. Add salt to taste.

Place on a serving bowl, pour the sauce over them and sprinkle with onion and cheese. Serve immediately. Enjoy with a side of refried beans. If you have any leftover chicken, you can sprinkle that on top too.

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