The Third Leader: Eggsistentialism

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The Independent Online

Owing to your various and pressing preoccupations, you might have failed to notice that the egg has been prominent in current affairs recently. We have already had a solution to the conundrum of whether it or the chicken came first, and the news that not one, but two, aids to producing the perfect boiled egg will shortly be available. Now we learn that free-range eggs are becoming more popular.

Others will have to judge the significance of this run of welcome tidings, no doubt musing on the egg's enduring symbolism. I thought that some context and deep background might perhaps prove useful.

First: boiling. Soon, thanks to a technological breakthrough, the lion on the egg will change colour when the egg is ready (there will be a choice of soft, medium or hard). Some, especially Americans, have sniggered over our need for this; I advise aloofness. I am also eager to test the PerfEGG device of Ben Harris of Brunel University, which will keep the yolk runny.

Next: some cultural footnotes. The earliest eggcup was found at Pompeii with, presumably, an extremely hard egg. Dickens enjoyed soft-boiled eggs with champagne; Dali used to place fried eggs on naked women. Reminder: the egg came first, as genetics insists on the primacy of the embryo.

Finally: the egg has prompted many interesting proverbs; Robespierre, fittingly, is credited with the one about the omelette and breaking eggs. I shall leave you with two more for pondering over breakfast. Chinese: In the broken nest there are no whole eggs. African: When arguing with a stone, an egg is always wrong.

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