Friday, April 21, 2006

An Admirable Receipt for Eggs.

Today, April 21st …

Vincent van Gogh went to Arles, in Provence, early in 1888. He moved into the ‘Yellow House’, painted his yellow sunflowers, invited Gauguin to stay, and continued his prolific correspondence with his beloved brother Theo in Paris.

On this day he wrote:

… But indeed, it will do you good to have breakfast. I do it here myself, and eat two eggs every morning. My stomach is very weak, but I hope to be able to get it right; it will take time and patience. In any case I am really much better already than in Paris. … Besides, one doesn't really seem to need a great deal of food here …

Vincent frequently spent his own money on art supplies rather than food. A few months later his fragile mental health deteriorated further, culminating in his ear-cutting incident in December.

How would Eliza Acton, our cookbook author of the week (1845) have cooked Vincent’s eggs?

(An admirable receipt.)
This mode of dressing eggs is not new, it seems, indeed, to have been known in years long past, but not to have received the attention which its excellence deserved. We saw it mentioned with much commendation in a most useful little periodical, called the Cottage Gardener, and had it tested immediately with various modifications and with entire success. After many trials, we give the following as the best, and most uniform in its results, of our numerous experiments. First, put some boiling water into a large basin – a slop basin for example – and let it remain for a few seconds, then turn it out, lay in the egg (or eggs), and roll it over, to take the chill off the shell, that it may not crack from the sudden application of heat; and pour in – and upon the egg – quite boiling water from the kettle, until it is completely immersed; put a plate over it instantly and let it remain, upon the table, for twelve minutes, when it will be found perfectly and beautifully cooked, entirely free from all flavour and appearance of rawness, and yet so lightly and delicately dressed as to suit even persons who cannot take eggs at all when boiled in the usual way.
Obs. – This is one of the receipts which we have reproduced here from our cookery for invalids, on account of its adaptation to the taste generally.

On Monday: The Lord Mayor’s Easter.

Quotation for the Day ...

Eggs are very much like small boys. If you overheat them or over beat them, they will turn on you and no amount of future love will right the wrong. Irena Chalmers.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried this method of cooking them?

The Old Foodie said...

Not yet, but I will very soon, and I'll let you know (unless you try them first and let ME know!)
I have become addicted to salad with "oefs mollet". I cook them according to Damien Pignolet's new book "French" - and the results are very consistent (I hate wobbly raw egg white, but like the yolks creamy).
You take chilled eggs straight from the fridge, poke a hole with a needle in the broad end, and plunge them into a big pan of boiling water (there needs to be plenty of water to ensure the cold eggs dont drop the temperature too much). Simmer for exacly 5 mins for a standard 69 gm egg (I do "Jumbo" eggs for exactly 6 mins for my husband and 6 1/2 mins for me).Plunge them into cold water and peel carefully. You can then store them in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, and reheat by putting them into simmering water for one minute. Works beautifully.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of similar descriptions of coddled eggs in English books up to about the 1950s.

Baked eggs are also fun. My personal favourite baked egg is late Medieval Sephardic - the egg sits in ashes for 12 hours after the fire has been put out. It has a fabulous texture and flavour - very creamy.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Gillian
The baked eggs sound fantastic - do they taste smoky? Do they ever burst?

Sally said...

So THAT'S what a coddled egg is? I've always wondered. Hmmmm. I thought coddled was another name for poached. Gillian - cold ashes? How would that cook the egg? Hmmm. So many new things I've learned. Thanks, guys!