The Egg Dilemma

One of my earliest childhood memories is being served a soft boiled egg for breakfast with teeny, tiny little pieces of crumbled bacon on it. I don’t know how my mother pulverized that nice crisp bacon to dust almost, but she did.  It was so good.  It had to be, if I’m still thinking of it all these years later.  Here’s a picture of me at the breakfast table:

In My High Chair

In My High Chair

I’ve always enjoyed eggs, whether they be boiled, poached, coddled, baked, fried or in an omelet.  There is something so satisfying about them.

A while ago, I had noticed that in the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog they showed a spoon labelled “egg or ice cream”:

1886 Meriden Britannia Catalog

1886 Meriden Britannia Catalog

It appeared to be a shorter, smaller version of a teaspoon. 

Then I noticed that the Luther Boardman catalog, circa 1900, indicated that a bar spoon could also be used as an egg spoon.  Now a bar spoon does not have the same shape bowl as a teaspoon.  Instead the bowl flares out and is somewhat flat on the bottom as compared to the rounded point of a teaspoon.  The following illustration is from the Boardman catalog:

L. Boardman Catalog Showing Bar Spoon Illustration

L. Boardman Catalog Showing Bar Spoon Illustration

Following is a page from that catalog which indicates that the 5 1/2 inch bar spoon could also be used as an egg spoon:

Boardman Catalog Page

Boardman Catalog Page

I wondered why the shape of these two “egg spoons” varied so.  I assumed these spoons were to be used to eat a soft boiled egg out of an egg cup.  The photo below shows two egg cups.  The one to the left is the “Yosemite” pattern by T. R. Boote; the other one is the “Garfield” pattern by Wallis Gimson.

Two Aesthetic Period Staffordshire Egg Cups

Two Aesthetic Period Staffordshire Egg Cups

They are both double egg cups, meaning that a single soft boiled egg (still in the shell) would be served in the smaller side. The larger side would be used for mixing add ins like little pieces of ham, mushrooms, scallions, to an egg served out of its shell.

Big End Up

Big End Up

You’ll notice that the Garfield pattern egg cup is larger than the Yosemite.  I’ve read the sometimes larger eggs are served, like perhaps a duck egg.  Perhaps that was the reason the Garfield cup was larger?  Both eggs in the photo above are “large” eggs.  And both are placed in the cup with the narrow end down.  There is considerable discussion online about which is the proper way to serve an egg…narrow end up or big end up.

Small End Up

Small End Up

Personally, I think the egg sits better in the cup with the small end up.  I got to thinking that perhaps the differing egg spoon shapes had something to do with which way the egg was placed in the cup.

Two Egg Spoon Variations

Two Egg Spoon Variations

It makes sense to me that if you are eating an egg with the small end up, you would use the wider bowl bar spoon so you can scoop up every last little bit of egg from the big bottom.  And if you were eating an egg the opposite way, then you would use the teaspoon shape spoon to get into the narrow part of the egg on the bottom.  I have never seen anyone say this, but it seems logical to me.

And once you tap the egg with the side of a knife to crack the shell, you are supposed to insert the edge of the knife into the crack in the shell and remove the top portion of the egg and put it on the plate. You have to be extremely careful doing this as you don’t want tiny little bits of pulverized egg shell to fall into your egg.  

Did they actually make plates, or saucers, specifically for egg cups?  I don’t know.  But you definitely need a plate of some sort under your egg cup for the egg top, the spoon and for the toast.  Oh, and the toast should be cut into strips (called soldiers) small enough that you could dip them into the yoke.  I’m starting to hyperventilate just thinking about this.

Garfield Egg Cup and Small Matching Saucer

Garfield Egg Cup and Small Matching Saucer

The Garfield saucer shown above is small, just about 5 and 1/4 inches.  The indentation in the middle fits the egg cup much better than the larger saucer.

Garfield Breakfast Setting

Garfield Breakfast Setting

Although sterling and silver plated egg spoons were made and widely used, I have since learned that using such utensils should be avoided as the sulfer in the egg reacts with the metal.  So what type of spoon is one to use? 

Hercule Poirot always insisted that his boiled eggs be the exact same size, as if they vary then their cooking times should vary accordingly.

Hercule Inspecting His Boiled Eggs

Hercule Inspecting His Boiled Eggs

And he is correct, the larger egg would not be cooked to the same extent as the smaller.

Measuring His Eggs

Measuring His Eggs

I’m including two articles concerning the eating of the egg. The first is from an 1855 book, “The Illustrated Manners Book”:

1855-The Illustrated Manners Book A Manual Of Good Behavior And Polite Accomplishments Pg 140-41

1855-The Illustrated Manners Book A Manual Of Good Behavior And Polite Accomplishments Pg 140-41

And the following from the 1859 “A Manual of Politeness”:

1859 A Manual of Politeness Comprising the Principles of Etiquette Etc. Pg106-07

1859 A Manual of Politeness Comprising the Principles of Etiquette Etc. Pg 106-07

Sometimes something that should be simple, simply isn’t.

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This entry was posted in aesthetic period egg cup, bar spoon egg spoon, eating a boiled egg, egg cup, egg spoon, T. R. Boote Yosemite egg cup, Wallis Gimson Garfield Egg Cup and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Egg Dilemma

  1. KerryCan says:

    This is a very entertaining post! The idea of you hyperventilating while thinking eggy thoughts made me laugh out loud! And those etiquette rules are fascinating, even to one as peculiarly American as I!

  2. Ginene Nagel says:

    Yes, what a very entertaining post! I completely agree. I have a spoon that matches the twisted bar spoon (which I thought was a soda spoon, so, thank you for that.) I will cut “soldiers” from now on. I knew something was missing from my technique. I agree with you that there are few things more comforting and are easier on the stomach than a boiled egg. I do have something to add about the size of the cup being possibly for duck eggs because someone gave me some duck eggs and I did a lot of research on whether or not people use them in the same way as the chicken egg. I found out that they are used in baking, but not in eating as they do have a different and gamier taste. I bet different factories produced different size egg cups, just as they produce different size cups, etc. to this day. Great post! ~Ginene

    • queenofsienna says:

      Thank you! I’ve learned something…duck eggs have a gamier taste than a chicken egg. And I’m sure you are correct about different sizes being produced by different factories. Happy New Year, Ginene! Susan

  3. queenofsienna says:

    Reblogged this on Transferware.

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