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Gascon Eggs

If there is one good food source we take for granted, it is the common egg. It has been well recorded since the early Middle Ages. In those times many people in Britain preserved hens' eggs in bran, meal or sand. Others advocated packing eggs in wickerwork hampers with the broad end downwards; while the common higglers turned their eggs upwards or downwards alternately once a week.

The marketing of eggs was still primarily the concern of the country housewife, who often earned her pin-money by her labours. In the eighteenth century careful housewives scrubbed the shells clean with warm water and sand before sending their eggs for sale in London

The most usual ways of dressing eggs at the end of the Middle Ages were to roast them in the embers, to poach them in hot water or broth, or to fry them in lard. Andrew Boorde approved of new laid eggs rare-roasted and eaten in the mornings with a little salt and sugar. But it was difficult to rare-roast eggs successfully, for they soon dried and hardened in the hot ash, and this method of preparation gradually went out of favour.

By the later sixteenth century the boiling of eggs in their shells in water had become a common practice. Prepared thus they were more digestible than roasted eggs; but less so than poached eggs, which always earned the highest praise from the medical men.

Fried eggs were the least wholesome of all;' yet it is less unwholesome if the eggs be not fried hard.' In fact, fried eggs got such a bad name that 'the best collops and eggs' in some seventeenth-century recipes were made with eggs poached separately in water 'in a fair scoured skillet white and fine, dish them on a dish and plate, and lay on the collops [slices of bacon toasted crisp before the fire], some upon them, and some round die dish.'

Eggs served with butter were familiar fasting-day food in Tudor times. Buttered eggs, forerunners of scrambled eggs, came into the cookery books in the seventeenth century. They were laid upon buttered rounds of toasted manchet, and the dish was garnished with pepper and salt. For those who enjoyed the scented foods fashionable at that period, musk and ambergris could replace the pepper. Buttered eggs were also eaten with bitter orangejuice, sugar and spices.

If this little tit-bit of food history has given you an appetite for eggs, then try preparing this week's recipe for Gascon Eggs. It is the perfect dish for a wet Sunday in November.


5 eggs; I Ib. tomatoes;I clove garlic; I oz. butter; I aubergine; oil for frying; 2 slices lean raw ham or gammon rasher, 3-4 oz. in all; chopped parsley.

Peel and slice aubergine, sprinkle lightly with salt, and leave fo J hour. Meantime scald, peel, and slice the tomatoes. Melt butter in a shallow saucepan, add the garlic, crushed with salt, the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Draw aside and keep warm. Cut the ham into strips and fry in a spoonful or two of oil for a few minutes, remove and keep warm. Now drain and dry the aubergine and fry the slices in a little extra hot oil until golden brown and tender. Arrange in the bottom of a serving-dish. Keep warm. Deep-fry the eggs, drain, and place on the slices of aubergine. Scatter the strips of ham over the eggs, heat up the tomato, and spoon round the dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Enjoy - Fly at a Smile-Price