Separation anxietyJanuary 3, 2011
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you are all still on languid holidays involving lying about reading, dozing, or foraging in the fridge for feasts of lazy food. And if you’re back at work, may the holiday feeling continue just a wee bit longer.
My first post of the year is yet another embarrassing culinary confession: I am crap at separating eggs. I’m even pretty crap at just cracking them, to be honest. This rather demeaning lack of expertise was brought home to me several times in the lead-up to Christmas. First, in the making of forty-five packages of chocolate brownies for Senor’s best customers and a few friends (that was a lot of egg-cracking), and second, in the making of 10 times the quantity of these spiced nuts, which I once again stuffed into the family food gifts this year.
Around the same time I was watching Nigella Lawson doing her Express cooking on telly (just to keep my outrage pilot light aflame, you understand – can’t abide the woman but it’s difficult to look away…) and finding my usual irritation rising tenfold when she seemingly effortlessly cracked an egg with one hand and then proceeded to go about her work without wiping her hands. Seriously, I watched for five more minutes just in the hope she would at some point run her eggy hand over something – her bosom, anything! – to wipe it clean, but no. Apparently The Goddess’s assets include spotless yolk-free fingers among her other skills.
So let’s talk about this – I want to hear how you do it. For myself, the method varies. I try to blithely snap the egg on the side of the bowl a la Nigella, but usually this results in me just efficiently dinting the shell into a minutely crazed patch, all ready for tiny bits of shell to fall straight into the egg once I do get it open. Then I spend long minutes chasing shreds of shell around the bowl with another bit of shell, which may or may not break and add to the problem.
Otherwise, I crack a sharp knife on to the egg held in my hand and hope it doesn’t go right through the shell into my palm. This does give a cleaner break (to the egg that is, boom tish), but lacks the panache of the side-of-bowl approach, and also leads to eggy hands if the blow is a little too sharp and cracks the egg more deeply than anticipated.
Now on to separating. I seem to have a deep anxiety about this, perhaps instilled in childhood. There is an almost pathological fear of escaped yolk infecting the white, and so I seem to spend inordinate lengths of time with held breath, tipping the yolk from one half-shell to the other – a feat made more difficult by my hopeless cracking (see above), which often results in the ‘halves’ being most unequal, and thus I can be scooting an egg yolk from one cavernous bowl of shell on to a teeny jagged shell plate the breadth of a thimble, then back again, for long, terror-filled minutes.
I don’t think this is normal.
There is, of course, the method often favoured by lascivious folks like Nigella – plopping the whole lot into your hand and letting the white seep through your fingers into the bowl. Now, I’m all for the sensual pleasures of cooking, but quite frankly I find this disgusting. Not to mention inefficient – if you’re like me, half the white would end up dripping down your arm and into your apron pockets, and then how the hell do you measure whether you have enough white left for the recipe? And there’s the contamination factor – my cooking hands are always washed several times during the process, but if a bit of yolk equals major systems failure, what about the inevitable oils or detergents or butter or other cooky stuff that must remain on the hands at least some of the time?
Now, I suspect that some of you will advise me to take the coward’s path and acquire one of these contraptions or even, God forbid, one of these (thank you Jules, I knew I’d get to use it one day…) but frankly I will take such advice as an insult. I want to know your best methods of unaided egg cracking and separation, and I want to know them now.
Please share! How do you do it? Are you an egg-all-over-the-shop cracker like me, or a spotless Nigella type? Do you share my separation anxiety? Any tips? I know that at least one of you has an intriguing shell-retrieval method passed down by her mother, so come on, share the love!
A wee announcement
This year is going to be a huge one for me, as I have not only my new novel Animal People to edit and get ready for publication in October, but I have managed to persuade the wonderful Allen & Unwin to let me write another book, which will be published in April 2012. I am very excited about it, as it’s a complete departure from fiction (and may – shhhh – involve matters close to our hearts here in howtoshuckanoysterland!), but it’s going to take up an enormous amount of my time between now and the end of August when I need to have it finished. That’s started, middled, and ended. Yikes.
Now, I desperately want to keep this blog ticking over regularly, but I’m thinking the best way to do that without growing stressed and resentful about getting everything done is to pull back a little and post an entry here around once a fortnight. I very much hope you will stay with me, as your readership and conversation here are among the great joys of my life. If you can, maybe subscribing by email (fill in the bit at the right of the screen, headed ‘get email alerts’) will save the irritation of finding no new posts online when you visit. This function sends you an email alert only when there’s something new to read here – no new post, no email.
But now, back to the crucial questions: how do you crack your eggs?