It always happened on Thursdays or Fridays. My Mum would start to get her ingredients together, ready for baking on Saturday morning. The must have staple in our home was eggs. Baking, boiling, scrambled, poached, shallow frying, and yes, every once in a while, in the chip pan - deep fried eggs were made.
My Father was the local bobby and part of his duties involved overseeing the movement of all kinds of livestock between various farms. Inevitably, relationships were formed over time with the local farmers. One of these farmers had chickens, and this was where Dad and I went to get our fresh eggs from.
We had an old brown mailing eggs box that held 24 eggs, and when Thursday or Friday arrived, there was usually only a few eggs left from the previous week. A 15 minute drive down the road to this farm brought a whole host of smells and textures to my senses. We were greeted by the farmer, and while he and Dad caught up with everything that was going on, my task was to retrieve and fill the 24 spots in the box with freshly laid eggs.
The coop was a wooden shed with no windows and a couple small exits for the chickens to get out into the wire run. Turning the wooden peg lock and carefully opening the door, I would slide in looking back to see Dad and the farmer still chatting away. The smell and the heat from the infra-red lamps were the the first to assault my senses. Then the fear as I looked around to see all the chickens turning to look at me, egg box in hand. The flutter of the last few chickens leaving their nestled perch to exit into the run was hectic, until came the moment of solitude, as I looked around to find the coop empty.
I would pick up the perfectly shaped, warm, brown eggs and check them over for cracks. A few loose feather here and there, blades of straw and the odd bit of dirt would fall off as I sorted through them. Delicately, gently, and lovingly, I filled each vacant spot in the box. Holding the box carefully, I would open the coop door, as a vast array of fresh farm smells pass by. The coolness of the wind, the freshness of the sea side air, and the return to natural light assures the senses that everything is good again.
I would make my way back to my Dad as the conversation ended between he and the farmer, as we thank him on our way back to the car. A brief pause, and a glance back in the direction of the chickens, I would respectfully thank them for their rich harvested products.
I am often asked as a chef what my favourite food is to cook and eat. For me, eggs take that spot. I was very luck as a kid to experience these pleasures and know first-hand where my foods came from. As a chef, I in turn have the responsibility to cook and present these foods to the final paying customer for consumption. I have always tried to cook these foods in the best possible ways to pay homage to the source. In this case the chickens.
Food Story - Ian Roger