At my prep school in the Eighties, we got hard-boiled eggs for breakfast every Sunday. The cook, a ruddy-cheeked woman with forearms like hams, would produce vats of the things, swimming in lukewarm water, which she’d plonk on the serving hatch along with a slotted spoon for fishing them out.
We’d load our plates, wait for the housemaster’s back to be turned, and then see how many we could fit inside our mouths at once (four was the record, I think). The trick was then to chew and swallow the things without laughing, which would cover the table in eggy shrapnel.
On weekdays, the eggs came scrambled, or fried, sometimes both, morning (on toast) and night (with gammon and chips). Delicious, they were, with just a twist of salt and dollop of Heinz ketchup.
On weekdays, the eggs came scrambled, or fried, sometimes both, morning (on toast) and night (with gammon and chips)
As the years went by, I continued my love affair with the egg, averaging at least three or four per day for most of my adult life and getting through boxes and boxes of the things every time Bake Off comes on telly and I become fleetingly obsessed with biscuits, pies and cakes.
Down the pub, I take them pickled and shaken in a bag of salt and vinegar crisps, ideally washed down with Weston’s Old Rosie, the cider of choice in my native Monmouthshire.
On picnics, they have to be dipped in celery salt. For breakfast, my preference is fried and sandwiched in sourdough. Lord knows how many silk ties I’ve stained in the process.
Last summer, in an attempt to cut the family’s spiralling grocery bills, I even decided to become a backyard egg farmer, acquiring half a dozen Burford Browns from the local poultry man and getting a trendy igloo-shaped henhouse made from recycled plastic off the internet. It has an automatic door that opens every morning and closes at night.
Last summer, in an attempt to cut the family’s spiralling grocery bills, I even decided to become a backyard egg farmer
Each morning, one of my three kids will clamber over the garden fence in a dressing gown to see how many our flock has laid.
At this time of year, with spring in the air, the girls are especially productive, and we’re getting half a dozen per day, or more than 40 each week.
They all get eaten, too: meal times chez Adams are a blur of pancakes and Yorkshire puddings, omelettes and frittatas, dippy eggs and soldiers, plus glorious meringue and home-made gelato for pudding. If we build up a backlog, my wife will use them in a cake.
Eggs, rich and buttery, with the deepest orange yolks you only really find when they come from home-reared hens, are the staple of our diet.
So imagine the concern I felt this weekend at news that this most glorious and versatile of foods ought to be banished from daily shopping baskets, according to the latest preachy edict from the public health lobby.
To blame is a research project published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which claims those of us who eat two or three eggs per day raise our risk of dying prematurely by a third, and increase our risk of heart attack or stroke by 27 per cent.
The findings are supposedly based on a study of 30,000 adults, carried out over 30 years.
Others disagree, pointing out that correlation doesn’t always equal causation: people who eat two eggs a day could be consuming them as part of gut-busting fry-ups
According to the report’s author, Norrina Allen, they are probably explained by the fact that eggs (and particularly their yolks) boast a relatively large amount of cholesterol, which has been linked to heart disease.
Others disagree, pointing out that correlation doesn’t always equal causation: people who eat two eggs a day could be consuming them as part of gut-busting fry-ups.
It could therefore be inordinate quantities of artery-clogging sausage and bacon rather than eggs that’s causing problems. Or they could just tend to be greedier, and more sedentary.
Whatever’s going on, eggs, and their supposedly high cholesterol levels, have from time to time faced the sort of regulatory demonisation you’d expect to apply to cigarettes and hard liquor.
A decade ago, for example the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre decided to ban an attempt to resurrect the egg industry’s famous Fifties TV advert, starring comedian Tony Hancock, which had the tagline: ‘Go to work on an egg.’ Apparently, such advice wasn’t ‘nutritionally sound’.
Whatever’s going on, eggs, and their supposedly high cholesterol levels, have from time to time faced the sort of regulatory demonisation you’d expect to apply to cigarettes and hard liquor
The same preachy little quango more recently decided to ban an advert for a special type of Omega 3-rich egg in which children sing the nursery rhyme ‘Chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken, lay a little egg for me’, on similar grounds.
Last month, meanwhile, eggs were deemed verboten by London Underground, which forced a trendy organic food supplier to crop them from a billboard advert. The ludicrous move was blamed on cholesterol content making them ‘non-compliant’ with Mayor Sadiq Khan’s nannyish ban on junk food adverts.
Paranoia about cholesterol in eggs has been doing the rounds for years with suggestible law-makers buying into it. And like most dietary scares, it originated it the U.S.
After World War II, and particularly the high-profile death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who suffered from heart disease, American doctors began fretting about the apparent rise of coronary problems.
Things got worse in the Eighties, when Edwina Currie wrongly declared most eggs in shops were infected with salmonella, causing a scare that saw a 60 per cent overnight fall in sales
They swiftly noticed a link between cholesterol levels in a patient’s blood and the risk of heart problems and, as a result, decreed that people should dramatically reduce the amount of cholesterol in foods they eat, setting a limit at 300mg per day.
For eggs, this presented a serious problem: each yolk contains around 200mg of the stuff. As a result, eggs were condemned to the nutritional version of the naughty step.
Things got worse in the Eighties, when Edwina Currie wrongly declared most eggs in shops were infected with salmonella, causing a scare that saw a 60 per cent overnight fall in sales, forcing farmers to kill four million hens, and leading to her resignation as junior health minister.
It wasn’t until the following decade that the egg’s PR image began to recover, after researchers noticed something called the ‘Spanish Paradox’.
After World War II, and particularly the high-profile death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who suffered from heart disease, American doctors began fretting about the apparent rise of coronary problems
In simple terms, this phenomenon revolved around the fact that Spanish people were consuming roughly a third more cholesterol than they had done in the Sixties, but levels of heart disease had declined over the same period.
With this in mind, scientists soon begin to question whether a diet high in cholesterol really did raise the level of the stuff in one’s blood, as their predecessors had assumed.
A host of subsequent studies then showed that eggs (which boast 13 essential nutrients, including B vitamins and vitamin A) might actually improve, rather than harm, one’s health.
These continue to be published to this day. In January, for example, the University of Eastern Finland found that eating an egg a day decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Recent years have therefore seen a welcome boom in the popularity of eggs, with around 13 billion consumed in the UK
And last year, a study of half a million Chinese people, published in the journal Heart, found that moderate egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular problems.
Recent years have therefore seen a welcome boom in the popularity of eggs, with around 13 billion consumed in the UK.
They have been particularly feted by ‘influencers’ such as Meghan Markle, who in her pre-Royal days waxed lyrical about how she likes to bake the things in half an avocado, and in a magazine interview once cited an omelette with herbs and toast as her preferred breakfast.
Slimmers meanwhile like the fact that eggs are high in protein, which makes them filling without being too fattening (each one contains just 75 calories, roughly the same as a banana)
Before their marriage collapsed, Nigella Lawson even revealed that her then-husband Charles Saatchi had lost 4st in nine months by following an ‘egg-only’ diet first popularised in the Seventies consisting of three for breakfast, three for lunch, and three for supper. Or 63 eggs a week.
If the journal of the American Medical Association is to be believed, Mr Saatchi was, of course, placing his health at serious risk. But perhaps, like many a consumer, he simply decided listening to medical advice is a mug’s game, when that advice changes dramatically from year to year.
In other words, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to work on an egg.