Uncle Reggie Story : URS: Egg and I
与曾叔叔讲故事:鸡蛋与我 (Andy/sm 翻譯)
Nothing much can beat the fried egg on top of Bibimbap. Photo and product of Eunsol Kim, Seattle
没有什么比韩式拌饭上的煎鸡蛋更好吃的了。照片和制作:Eunsol Kim,西雅图。

I just saw an old, old movie, “The Egg and I,” and it provoked a huge number of disparate thoughts in my mind, since eggs and I have had a special relationship from childhood.


You know how people do strange things when they go to college because suddenly they have a lot more freedom. I was intrigued in college by the “free” (technically prepaid) meals in the college dormitory, which in my case included as many eggs as I wanted. So, escaping the home constraints of at most one egg a day, I began to eat as many as 3-6 eggs a day. Fried or boiled eggs were all fine with me, but I especially loved the “sunny side up” or “over easy” ones the kitchen served. It was just fabulous to be able to eat in this way to my heart’s delight. No one ever breathed a concern about cholesterol in those days!


Today I still savor the sweet memories of eggs for breakfast, especially eggs on toast, with the egg yolk spilling over and soaking the buttered (real butter) toast! So when I get a chance to eat out for breakfast, that’s what my favorite order is, always.


And in my Hong Kong childhood, there was also a delicious, though ordinary, childhood dish called fried tomatoes and eggs with fried rice, ke dan chao fan. But then as I grew older, I realized that you could have great chopped up fried eggs with Singapore fried noodles, or sunny side up egg on top of the Korean Bibimbap or Indonesian Nasi Goreng, or even minced fried egg mixed in throughout Spanish paella. Are you salivating even at the mention of these wonderful dishes?


Standing up for eggs. Transfer of egg from mom (left) to dad for safekeeping, to wait as she marches off, to return with food months later. From BBC TV Planet Earth: Frozen Planet.
为蛋而立。企鹅蛋从妈妈(左)处被转移到爸爸处保管,等着她出发过后几个月把食物带回来。来源BBC TV《行星地球:冰冻星球》。

Every one of these dishes had the signature involvement of egg as the common denominator of food excellence for me. Every time I look at any menu, and I see that there are eggs somewhere on it, I pay attention. Some childhood “call” I guess. Oh, and yes, egg custards dan tat, fresh out of the oven, I can even feel it now in my mouth. I would just wait outside the bakery, knowing the specific time they would come out, always delectably hot.


And then there were the famous so-called 1000-year eggs, salted duck eggs, pigeon eggs, crab eggs, fish eggs or roe, all pretty sophisticated and tasty kinds of foods for me then. Even moon-cakes, since the best ones had the best golden egg yolks. Yet, to me, nothing really beats just ordinary fried chicken eggs themselves, stand-alone in excellence, just looking me in the eye. And, true confession, it’s really about the only thing I know how to cook and fry anyway!


When I arrived in Cincinnati in 1969 it was just the beginnings of the great controversy about eggs and cholesterol. I happened to be in the middle of this excitement because I became heavily involved in nutrition research, which included studying cholesterol in childhood. I was intrigued by an earlier study from one of my then colleagues, who had previously fed 3 to 6 eggs (!) per day to school children in South Africa, with no apparent bad side effects on blood cholesterol concentrations.


It created quite a controversy, adding fuel to the “how many eggs can I safely have each week” controversy that would rock the cholesterol world for decades. For a while nobody dared even to eat eggs because of its apparently high cholesterol content. It seems that the controversy now has calmed down to a general resignation that having eggs is a fine thing, though I do not know of any professional advocates for 6 eggs a day, yet.


Eggs look so delicate but they are also so rich in innumerable good things. I’m guessing you’ve never sucked them when freshly laid. With all the alarms today, I’m guessing you might never.

Following decades of maligning the poor egg, it turns out that just measuring the significant cholesterol content in egg (yolk) is such an inadequate (even primitive) way of understanding the beauty of the entire egg, reflected now by the increasing discovery of its likely hundreds of fascinating nutrient components! I like to think that, in my childhood naivety, I had already instinctively recognized its beauty way back in time!


The embryo chick story is also fascinating to me. It lies inside the eggshell snugly and safely as nutrients are carefully transferred from yolk (sac) to growing embryo. The shell is itself safely inside the mother hen. The calcium rich egg shell could be considered similar to the womb for the human embryo. And even a poetic picture of my lifelong fascination for nutrition and calcium, nurturing and protecting babies especially around the time of birth.


And it is just remarkable to see how different kinds of animals protect their embryos by nurturing them while they are in the form of eggs. “Oviparous” is the technical term for animals like this. One of the most astonishing stories to me is how oviparous emperor penguins transfer their egg from mom to dad for safe-keeping. While both parents are standing straight up during the transfer!


Also mind-boggling is how the dad then protects their egg, basically hovering over the egg while standing up for 64 days, waiting for the mother penguin to come back with the food that she has foraged from the ocean hundreds of miles away. And finally the priceless transfer of the newly hatched chick back to the mother, again while both parents are standing. A poetic egg shaped love story indeed.


Delving into cholesterol intakes in childhood. Don’t blame the egg. A surprise unsolicited 2020 reminder of one of my original scientific articles half a century ago.

The “neonatology of chickens” is dramatic. At the perfect time, some alarm rings, and the chick simply starts pecking on the egg shell from within. No outside birth assistance needed. Then, oops, the egg shell is cracked, the chick pops out, and even starts running. Such creative genius, from that fantastic inner drive to survive, to be born, to breathe and to run.


What is that amazing instinct that propels the chick to do such an astonishing thing? What is that DNA that drives all those wonderful new proteins that are being discovered, each involved with each component of this complicated process…? Who designed that instinct, that DNA, the real Designer of all of this creative genius?


And then the pure joy I have had of picking up freshly laid eggs on the farm. The gentleness with which one should do this, and then to put the eggs carefully into some kind of a container without cracking them. And the marvel for me to actually poke a hole in one end of the egg and suck out the warm egg ingredients, which gives such a primitive pleasure.


I’m guessing no one does this anymore, but you’ll be amazed how sweet that taste is. As moderns, we all are nervous that there might be some secret bug that would give us grief, so we will never join the thousands or millions of people who have tasted the pure joy of fresh warm newly born egg sucks! I still tingle at this thought.


Of course, it is indisputable that eggs are truly nutritious. They are a wonderful contribution to worldwide nutrition, being relatively cheap and accessible, and providing very fine protein from many angles. Eggs can even easily replace meats for protein needs, so don’t belittle them. Ah, the beauty and the dignity of the egg!


I guess I could go on and on about the “Egg and I,” just one of the many amazing Creations that we see all around us, if we can recapture the innocent wonders of childhood tastes, and the innocent joys of childlike eyes wide open. Are we still arguing about how many eggs we should eat each day?