A couple of months ago I managed to pull a muscle in my side, the one that stretches from your shoulder blade right round the front. I wish there was a rugged and manly explanation for this injury like I’d been wrestling a bear or paddling a raft full of orphans to safety across roaring white water. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, there isn’t. I managed to sustain this particular mischief by sneezing whilst in a slightly awkward position. And it was quite possibly the most painful thing I have ever done, and that includes falling off a large horse at the age of eight and being badly winded.
For about three weeks I couldn’t breathe deeply because the pain caused by pressure in my side was too much too bear. Every time I wanted to turn around in bed I had to mentally prepare myself like a wounded sailor readying himself for an amputation with only brandy anaesthesia to numb the pain. Swimming was virtually impossible and even the act of drinking was a chore. Sneezing also held a particular fear – every time I did so (and this happened an awful lot thanks to the high pollen count and my body’s frustrating inability to deal with it) it felt liked I’d cracked a new rib and I couldn’t help but grimace and emit a loud grunt that either of the Williams sisters would be proud of.
I also learned that comedy injuries, much like football, are a universal language thanks to a protracted encounter with a Thai masseuse in Bangkok. Despite my protestations, I was ordered by my girlfriend – no doubt increasingly concerned over my growing reliance on the strongest painkillers it is possible to purchase over the counter – to go and avail myself of the services of the nearest Thai massage expert (no sniggers or jokes please, this was entirely above board and no ‘happy finish’ was mentioned).
I tried to keep my injury secret but there are few places to hide when wearing but a pair of pants and lying down on a padded table. As soon as she started prodding, poking, kneading, pushing, pulling and stretching me where it hurt there was nothing I could do to stop myself recoiling in pain. She soon became fascinated with my right side and took all of about nine seconds to realise there was something wrong.
In broken English she asked me how I’d done it. I doubted whether the word ‘sneeze’ was one she had picked up and I toyed with the idea of saying ‘fight’ but it’s hard to act out that particular action whilst semi-naked, prostrate and with an arm held behind your back. With a combination of mime and enthusiastic sound effects I managed to convey that it was, in fact, a nefarious sneeze that was the cause of my ills.
She laughed so hard that she momentarily lost the ability to massage. This was, evidently, too good to keep to herself and within a few seconds of regaining the ability to speak she had summoned her fellow masseuses to come and stare in wonder at the crazy farang who’d managed to render himself incapable through sneezing. I found myself surrounded by Thai ladies each fascinated by my injury, each wanting to have a poke and prod and each struggling to conceal intense laughter.
After the kafuffle had died down and the gaggle of masseuses (a gaggle of masseuses? A pummel of masseuses? I just don’t know what the collective noun for such a group is) had vacated, she got to work on my side with tenacious enthusiasm. By the time she’d finished I could lift my arm above my head without wincing, I could sneeze without fear of bursting my rib cage, I had a full 360 degrees of motion. I was cured!
The reason I’m mentioning this now is because I’ve managed to suffer an almost identical injury but on my left side this time. And it wasn’t thanks to a rogue sneeze. After an hour chopping firewood (with an axe, no less. Can’t get much more manly than that) I returned inside to have a cup of tea. As the day wore on I developed a realisation that all was not well with my side muscle and each deep breath was bringing with it an eerily familiar pain. By the time I got to bed I had to resort to super strength painkillers in order to dull the ache enough to fall asleep and come morning I found that I couldn’t roll over without doing the sailor/amputation mental preparation routine again.
Of course, this digression has little, if anything, to do with this week’s Friday Nibbles. I was merely hoping to amuse with this self-deprecatory tale of woe. And perhaps garner some sympathy. Anyway, onto more relevant matters.
The egg is a single celled wonder. A magnificent and spectacular piece of natural engineering housed within its own little shell temple. Without the egg, the kitchen would be a far less interesting place bereft of so many things we take for granted. We’d have no cakes, for a start. No muffins. No mousses. No soufflés. No consommé. No custard. No crème patisserie. No pancakes. No meringue. No béarnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise. No pasta. No tempura. And that’s before we even begin on omelettes, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, fried eggs, poached eggs, coddled eggs, baked eggs, oeufs en cocotte…
Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. Eggs are pretty much essential to any and every kitchen. Unless you are a vegan, in which case they’re not. But you’re missing out, seriously.
Need a hearty breakfast? Fried eggs on toast is ideal. Brunch would be incomplete without pancakes or eggs Benedict. Hard-boiled egg at lunch time? Don’t mind if I do. Need to impress at dinner? Twice baked goat’s cheese soufflé should do the job. Feeling peckish just before bed? A quick omelette should fill the hole. Suffering from a hangover? A bacon and egg sandwich is virtually guaranteed to cure what ails ya.
And the most amazing thing is that we’re only just beginning to understand what goes on inside these little wonders. Hervé This, the famed molecular gastronomist, dedicates a large portion of his time and a huge amount of experimentation to eggs. He has found ways to cook and uncook eggs without the application of heat. He has discovered a way to cook an egg to a temperature that renders the yolk pliable and mouldable like play-doh. He knows exactly how much mayonnaise can be created from a single egg yolk (the answer is a lot) or how much meringue can be made from a single egg white (buckets of the stuff). He knows more about eggs than anyone else in the world.
But none of this matters when a fried egg, sat atop a piece of lightly toasted wholemeal bread is waiting to be devoured. Truly egg-shellent food indeed (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Have a great weekend.