By Mary Summerbell
Behold the egg. Basic. Balanced. Beautiful. The egg. It has, for me, a singularly pleasing elegance. I see it, easily, as a paragon of perfection. And, if you can suffer the abundance of alliteration, also as a paradigm of paradox. It is protective, yet delicate – a contradictory juxtaposition of strength and vulnerability – representing both the safety of containment and the risks of breaking through to new possibilities. Eggs are common, yet precious. Mundane, yet sacred. So ordinary, yet so extraordinary. Let’s not take them for granted, forgetting their magic and how mysteriously intriguing they can be.
Egg can simply mean “ovum,” a female germ cell. The unfertilized eggs we eat are ovum. Precisely, biologically, a gamate is a mature sexual reproductive cell that unites with another cell to form a new organism. A female gamate is an ovum. A male gamate is a sperm. A union of male and female gamates is a zygote, which becomes a growing embryo. Inside a shell or membrane, it’s an egg. Which brings us to a definition of egg as a variously rounded, usually hard-shelled, reproductive body of birds, turtles, reptiles, dinosaurs, amphibians, mammals, fish and insects, from which the young hatch.
Most eggs are not true spheres or true ovals. They are circles stretched and tapered into a parabola on one side – a truly unique and fascinating shape. There’s really nothing else quite like it in all creation. Why? What did Nature have in mind in evolving this design for containers of developing life? One theory is to make it easier to get it out of the body. That’s logical and practical. Or to keep eggs from rolling out of their nest, by not rolling down, but around in a circle on an inclined plane. Studies have been done, with no clear conclusions, to see if eggs are rounder in species nesting in low places compared to those nesting up higher. Another thought is that eggs allow optimum volume and space for yolk and growing youngster. And all these things might be true. Nature is certainly a multi-purpose problem solver.
Eggs are a super food – absolutely packed with valued nutrients. This nutritional density makes eggs quite satisfying to eat, giving a feeling of fullness while digesting slowly, helping to keep our energy levels consistently high. The 78 calories of one egg provide 6.3 grams of complete protein, meaning that it contains the whole range of amino acids, or B Vitamins. This level is so high that the World Health Organization uses egg protein as a standard for evaluating other food proteins. Eggs also contain Vitamins A, C and D, and minerals: Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Selenium, Phosphorous, Riboflavin, Iodine and Choline, which enhances brain development and memory. Eggs have Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that protect the eyes and reduce the risk of macular degeneration. They are low carb and low sugar, with 62 mg of salt and 5.3 grams of fat – 1.6 grams saturated, .7 grams polyunsaturated and 2 grams monounsaturated. The one questionable quality of eggs, health-wise, is 186 mg of cholesterol, with mixed research results on how that affects blood pressure. Only 2% of the population is allergic to eggs. They are free of gluten, corn, dairy, nuts, and soy, which makes them a very safe food for most people.
Eggs are incredibly edible – very versatile in the many ways they can be cooked compatibly with savory flavors as well as sweet. They can be fried – sunny side up, sunny side down, over easy, over hard. They can be boiled – soft boiled, hard boiled, parboiled, boiled any number of minutes you wish for your personally perfectly timed egg. With eggs we make omelets and quiches – meringue, soufflés and crème brûlée. We put them in puddings and custards, and sometimes ice-cream. Use them for French Toast and pancakes, waffles and crepes. And, oh, the bakery treats that with eggs we create: bread and cake, cookies, muffins, pastries and scones. With eggs we make Egg Rolls, egg salad, egg sandwich. Egg noodles, Egg Drop Soup, Egg Foo Young. Deviled Eggs. Eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale. We eat caviar and roe. Eggs can be scrambled and scalloped, basted and baked, microwaved and marinated – pickled, poached and smoked. Creamed, coddled, curried and cured. Even fermented. And dehydrated, to make powdered eggs. Remember, too, Green Eggs and Ham. And my favorite – chocolate eggs.
Beyond the kitchen, eggs are used a lot in our language. The origin of “egg” is Old Norse “eggja,”meaning “to edge,” which explains why to “egg on” means to urge, incite, prompt, provoke, encourage or downright dare someone to do something – most likely something they shouldn’t. Better it would be, much wiser, to advise them not to “put all their eggs in one basket.” Figures of speech include referring to folks as good, bad or rotten eggs. If someone says you’re “hard- boiled” it’s not a compliment. “Egghead” might be, if you like the intellectual type. We say “egg on your face,” “egg in your beer,” “nest egg,” “egg money,” ” Go fry an egg,” ” hard egg to crack” and “walking on eggshells.” “Eggs is eggs” means something’s inevitable; it was bound to happen. There’s “the goose that lays the Golden Egg.” And “a reason in the roasting of eggs,” meaning even the strangest things can be done for a reason. The one that made me laugh was one I hadn’t heard of before – “Don’t try to teach grandma to suck eggs.” Obviously outdated, now that we know the dangers of eating raw eggs, it means that Granny already knows how – and more about it than you do. And then there’s the timeless and eternal conundrum of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” which means it’s impossible to separate cause and effect.
There is so much history, mythology and folklore about eggs that I can’t begin to cover it here. It could easily fill a book. Maybe it’s already been written. Eggs are full of the promise of life itself. Most all cultures and religions, in all times, before time, have used eggs in practical and symbolic ways, in rites and rituals and recipes. Eggs have a significant role in so many holidays and traditions, worldwide. Eggs are a universal symbol of fertility, virility and vitality, and the perpetual seasonal cycles of our lives. And so much more…..I hate when people say that, but I almost have to, here, because of the vastness of the symbolism, the meaning and the metaphysical principles of eggs. More later. And, mathematically speaking, I’d like to explore the concepts of the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence, as they apply to my perspective of art and beauty. It’s a study that could fill a lifetime. I hope I can get back to it yet in this one.
There are so many reasons I am enamored of eggs. I didn’t realize how much until I wrote this. I’m fond of eggs for their depth and density and diversity. (Here I go, alliterating again…) I find them delightful in their intensely aesthetic design and, equally, delightfully delicious in the many culinary ways we can enjoy them. One of the things I like best about eggs is that I see them as eccentric. – As the unconventional siblings of circles and ovals. The word “concentric” means “having a common center” – like ripples in a pond when you throw in a stone. “Eccentric” means “off-center.” Except the beauty of eggs is that even though they are off-center of circles and ovals, they have their own unique center of balance. Another one of my favorite things about eggs, and deeply pleasing to me, is that they are simultaneously symmetric and asymmetric. This never ceases to amaze and amuse me. It makes me giggle.
I can identify with eggs in many ways. But my greatest appreciation for the egg comes from a personal connection I feel for it, gained from a healing experience. There was a time in my life when I was trying to cope with what I viewed as daily disrespect and abuse, in a situation I perceived as inescapable. I wasn’t doing well. My spirit was deteriorating. Seeking help, I heard and read a lot about psychic protection, with many suggestions for techniques of shielding from energy drains and attacks. Affirmations. Visualization. Meditation. None of it was working consistently for me. But I kept trying.
And one day, as I was meditating, an image came to me. I saw myself, sitting cross-legged, inside an egg. A beautiful Divine Light was coming down into me through the top of my head, radiating out all around me. The inside of the eggshell was permeable, letting my Soul Light shine out through it. It was wonderfully calming and peaceful. But I still felt vulnerable to things coming at me. I pondered on it until I got the idea to make the outside of the egg a mirror. Eureka! Then everything negative around me would simply be reflected away from me. It was just what I needed. It took some time, five or six months, for me to get the image to stay in my brain strongly enough so I could conjure it up instantly and hold it there as long as I needed it. I practiced by sitting in my magic egg when I felt safe, to reinforce the power of its protection. Eventually I didn’t have to think about it. Now I can be in my metaphysical egg in my mind any time I like.