The egg is timeless. But it’s not immune to being the subject of our fashions—falling into style, and then falling out of it again (say, when new scientific research launches us into concern over our cholesterol levels and egg white omelets sweep the nation). Once upon a time, circa the 1960s, the soufflé was big (though mysterious, too)—thanks to Julia Child.
During the years we unconscionably loved Jell-O, people put whole eggs into their molded creations (in France, they loved oeufs en gelée, hard-boiled eggs suspended in aspic. Then came the 1970s, when the quiche was particularly in style—though real men didn’t eat it. Salads with eggy components and/or dressings—Caesar, green goddess, Cobb—took the runway. In the 1980s, we ate deviled eggs in our shoulder-padded power suits.
The 1990s brought the sous-vide egg into the spotlight, made in a machine that could hold an egg at a steady temperature for a perfectly rendered yolk. Then there are the twentieth and twenty-first century’s vaunted eggs of fine dining: Alain Passard’s egg with crème fraîche and syrup; Juan Mari Arzak’s poached egg; René Redzepi’s hen and egg. They were innovations, to be sure, but also prime examples of eggs as occupying—and representing!—a specific moment in human time.
There are the tools we use to cook and alter our eggs, changing through the years, yet the same: the in-shell scramblers, the omelet pans, the cups and coddlers and platters. The stylish egg—trendy one decade, then disdained the next! Like bell-bottoms, we wear an egg one way, then cast it aside for another style entirely.
These days we Instagram eggs with their bright orange yolks, oozing from atop toast or into ramem. Eggs in vogue not only tell us about the world we live in, they hold a mirror up to who we are: our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our ingenuity, our ineptitude. Eggs are us, and we are eggs.