Friday, August 13, 2010

It's all in the fun.

The trick is to merely soft-boil the eggs. If you over boil them, then there is very little point to using le coquetier. To the French, hard-boiled eggs are actually just American eggs. What we call hard-boiled or diced eggs topped with salt and butter, they just consider another American "delicacy".

The real art rests with the soft-boiled egg. It's really very simple if you think about it.

1. Boil water.
2. Place egg into boiling water.
3. Wait 2-3 minutes.
4. Remove newly soft-boiled egg.
5. Place newly soft-boiled egg into le coquetier.

But then the fun begins. This is one of the first meals a child is able to eat all by themselves, fork and knife in hand. Once the hot egg is placed in its holder, you cut off le chapeau, or the hat of the egg as the French call it, and eat the top of the egg white off the inside. With most of the egg white still concealing the inner yolk, a small piece of baguette is used to break the seal and dip its way into the core--soaking up the runny yolk.

Now it's not just any old baguette. This baguette has been thoroughly salted and buttered and ripped into many small pieces...and is usually just placed on the bare table for anyone to share. Crumbs litter the table top and bits of salt find their way to the floor. But as soon as the baguette bit hits the yolk, the butter melts into the heated center and the process continues until the liquid center has been absorbed.

Luckily, the coquetier holds the egg in place. I'm sure one reason Americans choose to hard-boiled their eggs and then smash them to bits is so that parents don't have to worry about their children handling a hot, rolling egg shell. Or maybe French children, like Julien-Francois are just more sophisticated than their American peers.

As a nineteen year old exchange student, learning this common mealtime activity was very humbling to say the least. But Madame Dru walked me through every step, showing me how to cut the chapeau, prepare the baguette, and even explaining to me that because bread was once impossible to find, it is now for everyone...a major reason they just break bread and pass it all over the table. I found it a little funny when comparing it to the American practice of everyone having their own Pilsbury croissant sans another's germs.

After soaking up the precious yolk, a thin delicate spoon is used to remove the insides from the shell. The pieces of egg-white along with the occasional over-cooked egg yolk are scooped up, sometimes placed on more pieces of baguettes and slipped into the mouth.

Want to know what the typical first joke a French child tells?

When they have finished their soft-boiled egg, and all that is left inside le coquetier is an empty egg shell, they will wait until their mother's back is turned. Quickly, they flip the egg shell over, hiding the open top, revealing an unbroken side and yell out to their mother,
"Regarde maman, je n'ai pas mange mon oeuf!!"
(Look momma, I didn't eat my egg!)

And of course the mother plays along saying,
"Oh lala, c'est mal. Pourquoi est-ce que tu n'as pas mange ton oeuf?"
(Oh no, that's bad, Why didn't you eat your egg?)

Giggling with every word uttered, the child takes the small spoon and cracks open the shell, shouting with excitement,
"Je blague!"
(Just kidding!)

Well thought out, kid. Sure makes Why did the chicken cross the road? look a little silly, doesn't it?