After reading Betty McDonald’s The Egg and I, it dawned on me that I had seen eggs mentioned a number of times lately in my research. Deciding to highlight hen fruit wasn’t hard as far as recent recipes, but the further back I went, the less was said about them.
They were so much a part of ordinary life for our ancestors that the little protein packages that come in white, brown and pastels weren’t given much thought.
In the St. Paris Independent Newspaper (Ohio) of Dec. 15, 1870, it simply said, “Eggs are plenty at 30 cents a dozen.”
Prince’s 1922 History of Springfield and Clark County offered this little story on eggs. “Albert Reeder of South Charleston tells of a boy who was sent to market with eggs. His mother instructed him to get twenty-five cents a dozen for them. The grocer offered him thirty cents, but he remembered his mother’s admonition. When he returned home he told her about it, saying he held out for the twenty-five cents.”
Eggs made front page news locally on July 26, 1951. The New Carlisle Sun reported the following: “Jack Hadder, salesman for the Hall Pontiac Company dropped in at Shaeffer’s Restaurant and ordered ‘two eggs up’. When Mrs. Shaeffer placed the order in front of him, there staring up at him were two eggs as ordered, but the yolk of one was bright red and the yolk of the other was bright green. In the meantime, Jack had failed to notice that a rather unusual number of his friends had dropped in for a cup of coffee.
‘You should have seen Jack’s face when he saw those eggs’, said Bill Lemin. Mrs. Shaeffer explained in vain that the eggs were strictly fresh, just as when the hen laid them and were as good as any other eggs.
The eggs had been furnished to her by Bill Lemin and Bob Walpole of New Carlisle Farm Supply. She had agreed to serve them to the first regular customer who ordered ‘eggs up’. She tipped the men off, hence the number of friends who came in.
Farm Supply had received the ingredients of the colored eggs from Purina Seeds who had originated them in order to impress dealers and customers with the fact that the quality of an egg depends on what has been fed the hen.
A harmless vegetable dye was added to the chicken feed and presto-colored yolks in the egg, neither the shell nor the white was changed. When Bob Walpole ate one in a Tipp City restaurant the week before it created quite a stir — he reported it tasted just like any other good fresh egg.”
While Bob and Jack experienced fresh eggs, another man in Chester, PA, wasn’t so fortunate. As reported in the Jan. 3, 1908 Springfield Newspaper, Robert Bauer ended up swearing off eggs for life after the following incident.
“While Mr. Bauer was removing the shell from an egg he had for breakfast, he noticed something written on the shell in indelible lead pencil, ‘Write to Pauline Respern, Wheeling, W. VA.’
He wrote her and received a handsome souvenir postcard signed by her and bearing this message. ‘Mr. Bauer, Had about given up ever hearing from that egg on which I wrote my name. It was sent away over three years ago, when my father had a farm and I packed eggs for shipment.’
Bauer says he will never eat another egg-‘The idea of a man eating eggs that are three years old! And the fellow who sold them to me gave his word they were just from the country and strictly fresh.’”
There are a number of versions of Egg Gravy. Some diehards stick strictly to the following recipe while some say it can be made in the same skillet as sausage or bacon is cooked, substituting a little of the meat’s grease for the shortening. Either way, check the egg for writing and hope it’s fresh!
1 tablespoon shortening
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
In a skillet, heat shortening and add flour. Stir but don’t let it get brown. Mix together the milk, egg, salt and pepper. Add to the flour mixture. Stir constantly and cook over med-low heat until gravy is thick. Serve hot over biscuits or toast. Good with bacon or sausage.