Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
The astonishing and unintentional gift from birds to human beings, the acme of food packaging, and a prime resource of occidental and oriental cooks alike. It is also the ultimate measure of ignorance and incompetence in the kitchen; ‘he/she can’t even boil an egg,’ she/he will say, whether fondly or resentfully.

A reference to ‘an egg’, with no qualification, is assumed almost everywhere to mean a hen’s egg, which is what this essay is about. For other eggs, see duck, ostrich, quail. The hen’s egg is usually the one that carries symbolic significance (the renewal of life, e.g. in spring festivals and easter foods). These and associated topics are admirably dealt with by Venetia Newall (1971).