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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Chickens and Eggs, Haute Couture Style

An egg fairy gave me a baker's dozen tray of colorful eggs the other day. The fairy, in fact, is our lovely gardener Cynthia, and the eggs came from the flock of fashionable hens we keep at the Manresa biodynamic garden.

I'm not kidding about the fashionable bit, really. As you can see from the pictures above, some of them apparently walked straight out of fashion week into our chicken coop. We have Araucana hens, with colors ranging from light brown to copper, accented with gorgeous black patterned feathers. We have the White-crested black Polish hens, sporting jet black feathers and a head of striking white plumage –David calls them the Chanel chicks. My favorites are the Buff-laced Polish hens, with the same billowing plume as the black Polish hens but in light brown and feathers intensifying in colors from beige to brown -the shades just perfect for the coming Spring fashion, Oscar de la Renta's, I'd say. Plus, these are not only haute couture chickens but they are fed haute cuisine. They eat the surplus produce from the garden and scraps from the kitchen at Manresa, no all go into a compost pile for them to peck on to their heart's content.

The eggs these hens produce are no less striking. My egg tray looks as though it has somehow captured the rainbow. The most striking ones are dark brown -so dark it could be made of chocolate. They are from the Maran hens -swathed in black, gun-metal gray, and bright red, and looking like last season's Marc Jacobs. The Martha Stewart-Green eggs come from Araucana hens. And the deceivingly plebian white eggs, which have the brightest orange yolk I've ever seen, are from the Chanel hens.

I must admit I feel a little smug, you know, having our own flock of hens producing delicious eggs and all that. But it also made me sad at the same time, because very few people can afford this luxury. Far too many people must rely on factory-farmed eggs as a main source of inexpensive protein in their diet. And the state of egg production here in the industrial US of A will depress anyone who look a little too closely at it. There are little things we can do. Paying attention to the type of eggs we buy is one, but even that one must be careful since egg labeling can be misleading.

In the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a few choices when it comes to humanely produced (and delicious) eggs: from Marin Sun farms at the Ferry Plaza farmers market and from Black Hen farm and TLC Ranch at markets in Santa Cruz, and I'm only speaking of the ones I frequent. I'm sure others can fill in on other good egg sources elsewhere (feel free to add to the comment area.) Also, the Certified Humane website has an interface that helps you find the Certified Humane products, including eggs, in your area.

What to do with these gorgeous eggs, you asked? I'm such an egg-lover I hardly know where to begin. One of David's favorites is egg sandwich. It's simple enough, fried eggs in between thick slices of toasted crusty bread. We love the eggs over-medium for the sandwich, but you could have any doneness you like. The trick is to toast the bread only about half way through first –this is easier done in a toaster oven- and then grate some hard cheese -whatever you have on hand- over the slices then back into the toaster they go. Take out the toasts when they are nicely golden and the cheese melted to a gooey perfection, then make your sandwich with the delicious eggs. You can add any sandwich fixing, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, but we like ours just plain. How simple, and what a pleasure!


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