Rupert Wright eggsplores the egg, which many consider the perfect food. This incredible, edible ellipsoid is a staple in all sorts of dishes - from pies to biscuits to bread - and can be superb on its own.
THE BASIC EGGSCELLENCE Why consider the egg? Well, it is a design classic, beautiful and light, strong enough not to break unless you're clumsy, but fragile enough for a small chick to burst through days after having been laid. It is full of goodness, easy and quick to cook.
THE EGGSISTENTIAL QUESTION So which came first, the chicken or the egg? That's easy. While this dilemma has consumed man since the days of the pre-Socratic philosophers, no doubt pondering while their wives were busy knocking up an omelette, eggheads at Sheffield and Warwick universities say it's the chicken. They discovered that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg. The egg can exist only if it has been created inside a chicken. Not everybody will find this conclusive. The Japanese call the egg "brain food", so perhaps if we eat a couple first we might finally crack the riddle.
AN EGGSACTING ISSUE Eggs in literature? According to Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travels, whether you put your egg in the cup with the little end or the big end facing upwards is as divisive as whether you were a Protestant or a Catholic in 18th-century Europe.
OTHER EGGSCEPTIONAL OVOIDS Just chickens? No, duck eggs are also tasty, if a little smaller. Gull eggs are popular in season, and you can find them in places such as Sweeting's, a fish restaurant in London. If you're really peckish, try an ostrich egg: scramble one of decent size and you'll have breakfast for at least five people.
THE EGGSHILARATING EGGSTRAS There are many ways to crack an egg, and even more ways to utilise one. Eggs are used in making paint, enjoyed at Easter when decorated, and are also good, when rotten, for throwing at people whose views you disagree with, such as food writers.