It's no secret that I L-O-V-E eggs. I love them soft boiled, poached, and especially in Eggs Benedict. They are so versatile. They are almost as great as the sum of their parts. The whites are miraculous in meringues and the yolks enrich a sauce like nothing else. And when you are tired, they make the simplest of suppers.
The urban chicken coop has been alive and well in the Seattle area for years. I worked with a couple of people who raised their own chickens and have seen chicken eggs at the farmers' markets for $5 a dozen. I always tried to buy the free-range, no hormone, naturally nested type eggs, but I have to admit that I had a little chicken envy.
Those chicken people were so smug though. "Oh, the eggs are so fresh," they'd exclaim. "The yolks are so bright," they'd gush. "They are almost orange in color, you wouldn't believe it!" And on, and on, and on. Oh, and Martha Stewart – that bitch – was the smuggest of them all! As she’d whisk up a Caesar dressing with raw egg yolks, she’d boast, “I don’t worry about salmonella because I get the eggs from my OWN CHICKENS.”
The thing is, for as much as I love eggs, I hate chickens. The way they wobble about, bobbing their heads and pecking the ground…is terrifying. Granted, I feel the same way about pigeons. If you walk towards them, you don’t know if they are going to fly away from your or into you. Terrifying.
Needless to say, owning chickens was out of the question. Don’t think I didn’t try. I casually mentioned it to Gavin once, probably after reading a “Build Your Own Chicken Coop This Weekend,” article in Sunset magazine. He laughed. Really LAUGHED. And teased. “Don’t you remember Kauai,” he asked.
We went to Kauai for our honeymoon (5 years ago next week) and loved it. Except for the chickens. They are everywhere on the island and have no real predators…other than motor vehicles. The story goes that Hurricane Iniki (in the early 1990s) destroyed a bunch of chicken coops and the chickens that survived are now wild and continue to breed. They weren’t at our resort, or at the lovely beach that we lounged at day in and day out…but everywhere else – chickens.
I tried to talk my parents into raising chickens a couple of times. They are great gardeners and DIYers, so it seemed natural. I tried subtlety at first, “You guys eat a lot of eggs, you know I hear raising chickens is easy.” I like to think my parents are getting forgetful enough that if I suggest something enough times, they will think they came up with the idea. Hey, it’s worked before, but that’s a story for another day. I later moved on to a direct approach. “You should raise chickens, you like to grow stuff and then you’d have fresh eggs every day.” That last attempt was met with a response just as direct from my mother, “Are you joking? Why on Earth would I want to take care of those filthy animals when I can just go to the store and buy fresh eggs?” Um. Yeah. I can see her point.
Where did that leave me? As of three months ago, that left me with eggs from the supermarket. I was buying eggs – white shells, yellow yolks, one-dimensional flavor. I had resigned myself to buying supermarket eggs until I met Lisa.
I met Lisa at our friend Maria’s 40th birthday party. I had made the birthday pies (apple) and Lisa was impressed. Our friend Michelle played matchmaker. It went something like this, “Sonja, this is Lisa and she loved your apple pie. Lisa has chickens that layfresheggseveryday. You should trade eggs for baked goods.” Ding ding ding ding ding! Done. Deal.
For the past three months, I’ve become friends with Lisa as we make our bi- or tri- weekly exchange of baked goods for eggs. I even got my parents in on the action. My dad traded some fresh halibut for his eggs.
Now that I have come to appreciate and enjoy a truly fresh egg, you know what? I have become that smug person! I had no idea how much more flavorful really fresh eggs could be! And the yolks – I can’t tell people enough about them, “So big - so plump - so flavorful! And they are SO yellow…they are almost orange.” I kid you not. I heard Gavin doing it the other day too. We have become that which we mocked!
I’ll admit it. Fresh chicken eggs – and I mean really fresh – are vastly superior to anything I’ve tasted before. The color of their shells are determined by the color of the hen's skin and in the case of Lisa’s chickens (that are grey and copper), the shells are pale blue and brown. I got to meet the chickens once and even took their picture…but from the safety of the deck.