Adventures with Churton Honesty Eggs: A 3.5 minute soft-boiled egg

Not really an adventure on this occasion, just lunch, but the last time I cooked a soft-boiled egg is lost in the mists of time.  It must have been years ago.  So during a sunny interval after days of changeable weather, with a nice collection of Churton eggs on hand, I indulged.  I almost never have lunch, but the eggs were there, the sun was there, the egg cups were recently rediscovered following the move, and the moment was just perfect.

The egg cups were bought by my mother, because they were such fun, and we had them in the family holiday house for years.  Mum may never have seen the famous Egyptian Predynastic bowl shown below, also adorned with feet and complete with toes, but I would guess that whoever designed the egg cups probably had.

I like my eggs boiled for three and a half minutes, which just sets the egg whites and leaves the contents thoroughly runny.  Absolutely perfect for the dipping of toasted, buttered soldiers.  I remember exchanging animated views with a group of friends years ago about whether the top of the egg should be removed in a clean swipe with a knife,  tapped around the circumference with a spoon, or dismantled with a specialist scissor-like device with metal teeth.  I used a teaspoon to bash a line around the top before scooping it off.  I like a mixed mound of freshly ground sea salt and aromatic black pepper on the side, ready to stir in to the yolk.  Having forgotten the virtues of a  silky, liquid, daffodil-yellow soft-boiled egg, not having had one for such a long time, I really enjoyed the novelty value and it was utterly delicious.

Predynastic pottery sequence by Sir William Flinders Petrie, based on his 1898 – 1899 work in Egypt at the site of Hu (also known as Diospolis Parva)

The Egyptian Predynastic bowl takes a few more lines to explain.  The Predynastic period of Egypt is divided into three main phases, Naqada I, II and III and lasts from c.3690-3238BC.  The Predynastic is distinguished from the earlier prehistoric period by virtue of the fact that the subsistence economy is agricultural (domesticated cereals and livestock), as opposed to merely pastoral (livestock and wild plant resources).  It is the period during which Egypt made the transition from a series of loosely connected ephemeral sites experimenting with the first low-level mixed agriculture to a number of centres of power that eventually coalesced, by fair means or foul, into a single nation headed by a king.  This particular bowl, now in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, is unprovenanced (its origins are unknown because it was bought from a dealer in 1910) but stylistically it belongs to late Naqada I or Naqada II.  It is not the only bowl with feet from the Predynastic, but vessels with feet are very rare and this particular vessel’s form is unique.  If it was used for storing items, these were not preserved.  Very little work has been done on pot residues in Egypt, and most items in museums have been thoroughly cleaned anyway, so what it was used for remains unknown.  There’s more about the bowl on the Met’s website.  

As I have no idea where Mum bought the egg cups, those too are strictly speaking unprovenanced, but they have been with us for a very long time.  The eggs, however, are very precisely provenanced to a small army of hens just up the road 🙂

Churton honesty eggs

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