While chatting with a friend the other day, she mentioned a vegan chef she knew who was responsible for family meals. Meaning he, the wife, and the kids all ate vegan by default. And I think that, definitely, if someone in the family is going to go vegan or Paleo or gluten-free or what-have-you, it had better be the family chef. The family chef can impose his or her food agenda on everyone with the least pain involved. Ask my kids, who groan whenever I mention some new nutritional tidbit I've learned, which might adversely impact their favorite foods. If anyone in my family is in danger of going vegan, it's my youngest. Not only is she an animal lover, but she naturally dislikes cheese and eggs served on their own. I'm banking on her unflagging love for bacon and club sandwiches to keep her in the omnivore column, lest mealtimes get more complicated around here. Because the rest of us love not only meat, but cheese and milk and eggs.
But let me be clear. By "eggs" I mean real eggs. I don't raise chickens (the volumes of poop scared me off when I was considering it), but I do fork out extra money for better eggs. When the Market is going, I buy from our various farmers. And when it's not...
When it's not, I fork out for the most farmers-market-like eggs I can buy at the grocery store. Just check out the difference in those yolks! As Deborah Madison says in my well-thumbed Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,
The color of the yolks reflects what chickens have been eating. Chickens I've known that peck at this kernel of corn and that fresh green plant, bug or blossom as they wander over the yard have eggs with bright yellow yolks...While organically raised food is always preferable to use, it's especially important with eggs. Those that come from chickens that aren't crammed into small cages and given boosters of hormones to encourage laying and antibiotics to compensate for the disease crowding fosters are simply better all around. They look lively and healthy, the yolks are bright yellow, and the chickens who laid them are healthier, too.
To this I would add that the best eggs have thicker egg whites. When you crack one in a frying pan, the egg white doesn't immediately flow all over, as if it were water. Now, in the picture above, I bought Stiebrs eggs from Whole Foods, which receive a good score on the humane side of the things, but those chickens are clearly not enjoying the varied diet of the one who laid the orange-yolked egg. And when I boiled up the Stiebrs eggs to serve in a Chinese Beef Stew dish, my son demanded, "What's wrong with the eggs? They're all pale and they don't taste as good."
All of which is to say, in the Market off-season I've been buying these puppies:
Yes, I know a chunk of my money is going to the beautiful packaging and the wee "newspaper" they enclose, but the eggs really are quite good. The egg whites may not be as cohesive as Market eggs, but the yolks are beautiful and flavorful, and I haven't found a better alternative on the store shelves. Some time ago I posted on the benefits of pastured eggs, which you may want to read about here. Better looking, better tasting, and better for you.
As you know, good ingredients make for good food. Check out this challah I made for my book club, a traditional Jewish egg bread in honor of Judy Blume's In the Unlikely Event (another book club member brought bananas, since one of the characters ends up in a mental hospital).
Eggs do good service in our baked goods, adding structure, color, and flavor, and helping with emulsification and the attractive browning. But even just served as themselves, eggs are great sources of "solid nourishment at modest cost in a form that can be used simply and quickly" (more Deborah Madison). Egg-lovers need no encouragement, but for my youngest I find that she'll eat scrambled eggs if they're accompanied by salsa, and occasionally I can get her to have a "Chinese fried egg," which is just a fried egg sprinkled with soy sauce and about 1/8 tsp sugar while it's being cooked.
I'm pretty sure I could be a weekday vegetarian, if necessary, but my dozen eggs might have to be pried out of my cold, lifeless hands before I gave them up.