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Flavour Guy: Which came first: the chicken man or the egg man?

At the market there are no more live chicken men. Well, of course, the men and women at the market are alive, but real poultry purveyors are as rare as the milkman in a horse-drawn wagon and others, who once brought food from the farm.

The grocery store replaced the peddlers. The self-service store replaced the grocery store. And then everyone with a car drove out to the newer, larger and super-clean super-markets, where there was parking and we could load up our cars with a week’s worth of shopping and never have to meet anyone who actually had contact with food ever again.

But then cities discovered that farmers’ markets were not just for farmers. They had become important to get people back into town. People liked living near them. But the markets had changed. Farmers’ markets are now as sanitized as most supermarkets. The egg men are there but not the live chickens. So while we do not know which came first, the egg man or the chicken man, we do know who remains.

I bought some eggs the other day. I like to go to Le Capitaine at the Jean Talon Market. He once told me that his chickens were happy. Although, since he or his partner are at the market every day, I am not sure when he has a chance to check in on his chicks. But the eggs are fresh and tasty and he has many different kinds: duck eggs which are about twice the size of regular hen’s eggs, mammoth turkey and goose eggs, very cute quail eggs, and medium-sized green eggs from free range imported Chilean chickens. At last Sam-I-am can have green eggs and ham.

For a long time, along with chocolate, nuts, fats and oils and other good things to eat, eggs were consigned to the egg-zit, the nutritionally vapid shelf that could have been labelled: eat me and die! But then we were told they had good cholesterol, which is good for us. And then we were told that chocolate is good (of course many of us knew that) and then we were given permission to enjoy alcohol. Oh joy! It is as if Nurse Ratched had a lobotomy.

I’ve always been an egg man, so I was pleased to see that I now have permission to eat them guilt-free. But which should I eat? Free range or not so free? Organic or not so much? Duck, hen, or goose? Frankly, if you crack open just about any egg, fry it, and place it before me, I cannot tell the difference. This may be heresy for The Flavourguy. I have been told that duck eggs, with twice the omega3 of hen’s eggs are better for me (whatever better means), but they don’t taste differently. And I don’t think I am alone. Perhaps that is why we have not developed an egg vocabulary similar to that of wine. ‘Ahhh. This egg has a distinct buttery flavour with a back of the mouth tenuousness and you can taste the terroir.’ Well, knowing a bit about chickens, I am not sure I want to taste the terroir.

I do know that a breakfast of fresh baguette dunked into a five-minute soft-boiled duck egg, along with a café au lait, is about as close to a perfect meal as I can make. If having to get it brings me closer to those who produce the eggs, bake the bread and roast the coffee, that’s not so bad either.

Celina’s eggsellent egg salad

  • Hard boil a half dozen large-sized eggs. (To do this properly, use eggs that are at least a few days old and cover them in a pan with slightly salted cold water, bring this to a boil and turn off the heat. Leave the eggs in the hot water for exactly 12 minutes. Remove the eggs and put them in ice water. This will make it easier to remove the shells.)
  • Grate the eggs with an old fashioned metal box grater.
  • Mix this with 1 tablespoon of yogurt and 3 – 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise.
  • Add salt and black pepper to taste.
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