How To Use Your Egg Cups
My Probably Less Than Adequate Attempt At Instructions
What The Hell Are Egg Cups?
I'd never heard of egg cups until I had a two year stint of many trips to Germany, the Netherlands, once to France, plus personal visits to England. Because I was usually traveling with European companions, we stayed at traditional hotels rather than Americanized ones. As part of a complementary breakfast these hotels provided soft-boiled (or soft-cooked to be correct) eggs with egg cups. I grew to look forward to these treats. A few months ago something brought them to mind and I began looking for some. Since most Americans have never seen an egg cup I wasn't surprised they were a little hard to find. I located many ornate, baroque, super expensive and antique egg cups, but I was surprised to discover, simple cups like the ones found in abundance in Europe are very hard to find here. After spending hours searching the internet, I could only find some that are similar. Strange that common egg cups don't seem to be available at all in this country.
Cooking The Eggs
Put eggs in a pan where they are amply covered with water. Some books say they should be at least 1 inch of water above the eggs. Bring quickly to a rolling boil. [Starting here opinions vary.] Cover pan and remove from heat. Start timing here. Leave eggs in water for 1-4 minutes depending on individual taste (I use one minute, but that may be a little soft for some.) When the time is up, promptly cool eggs in cold tap water to stop the cooking -- I pour off most of the hot water and run a full flow of cold water into the pan for 2-3 minutes. The eggs should be only mildly warm when finished.
Opening The Egg
Put the large end of the egg into the cup. Holding egg and cup in one hand strike the egg near the small (upper) end with a table knife to break the shell. Then work the knife into the break holding your thumb on the opposing side of the egg, and "roll" or "flip" the top off as the knife nears your thumb. Note: Your technique may vary.
It takes a little practice to do this without making a mess of the shell at the opening. My European companions insisted on breakfast every morning, so I got quite good at it. However, that was 20 plus years ago and now I'm having to relearn the skill. Even the very practiced mangle the shell sometimes, so don't get discouraged.
|Now use the specially designed spoon to eat the egg out
of the shell. NOTE: Examine the lip of the opening and remove
any small loose pieces of shell or you'll scoop them into the spoon with a
bite of egg.
Eat the very top first to make room for the spoon to go inside the egg
without pushing the liquid yoke up and out.
Write and tell me how you're making out, and any additions to the instructions.
The earliest images of egg cups appear in a Turkish mosaic dating from 3AD and examples were found among the ruins of Pompeii from 79AD. The date of the advent of the egg cup in England is uncertain but we do know that Elizabethans roasted eggs and in 1690 a certain Lady Harvey referred to "a silver egg thing" in a thank-you letter.
Wooden cups were probably made before silver ones but are very difficult to date. In the early 18th century wealthy people used silver egg cups engraved with the owners coat of arms with matching spoons and from 1743 the less well off could buy them made from the cheaper Sheffield plate. Throughout the 18th and into the 19th century pottery and porcelain egg cups featured as only part of a dinner service and would have been of matching style, color and pattern.
During the 19th century, egg cups were produced in their own right as individual pieces of chinaware.
Silver cups made in the 19th century were often gilded inside. This was to prevent the sulfur from the egg from staining the silver which some say affect the flavor. At this time ‘egg’ spoons tended to be made of horn, ivory or bone.
In France, Louis 15th helped the popularity of egg cups as people bought an eggcup to try and emulate their king as he was reported to be able to "decapitate an egg at a single stroke."
Egg cups were so common and were not considered anything "special" at this time so were often chipped or broken. This explains why intact 19th century designs are so hard to find.
The earliest examples of Victorian egg cups often come in sets of four, six or even twelve as breakfasts had become gastronomic feasts by this time and families of more than 10 were commonplace.
The size range of egg cups is surprisingly wide as the Victorian farmyard contained many more species of egg laying poultry than the modern battery farm so egg cups range in size from the smallest for quail eggs to chicken, turkey, goose and even swan eggs.
An advertisement for Harrods in 1911 shows a set of six electroplated nickel silver eggcups on a stand with matching spoons for $1.75, today in good condition these would cost around $320.
The egg hoop is like a waisted napkin ring with one end sometimes larger than the other to take different sized eggs in one end for hens egg and the other for turkey or duck egg. The hoops are quite rare these days -- especially if they have a famous factory mark on them such as Wedgwood or Spode.
The double egg cup became very popular in 1930’s, these being used to eat a boiled egg in the small end as usual and the larger end is for the egg to be chopped, mixed with salt and pepper and eaten with a spoon or fork.
During the 1900’s the huge growth in railway travel launched a boom in the holiday souvenir trade and potters were quick to supply cheap egg cups bearing a black & white or sometimes a full color scene of the sea-side resort or town. Probably the most well known of the souvenir ware makers were Goss of Stoke on Trent who produced somewhat better quality cups up to 1930. These cups had a towns’ coat of arms and name and were not just limited to popular destinations and seaside resorts but many inland towns were featured. These souvenirs sold at the time for pennies.
Also popular around this time was what is known as Devon 'motto ware'. These cups usually have a motif of a cottage , crowing cockerel or seagull with sayings such as 'fresh today' or 'waste not, want not'. Not surprisingly vast quantities of egg cups were being made to appeal to children to encourage them to eat more eggs and cups were decorated with pictures of favorite characters from children's books, and comic strips such as 'Felix the Cat', Bonzo and Mickey Mouse and later came Muffin, Sooty, the Muppets and there has even been a set of TeleTubbies produced.
Novelty cups are probably the most diverse of all cups, chickens (being a common shape), birds, fish, mammals and the rest of the animal kingdom has been well represented over the years. Humans have not escaped attention and have been produced from the Edwardian 'face' cups with the monocled 'Duke' being very popular and the smiling or crying children's faces up to the more recent soldiers, sailors, policemen and of course politicians such as Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock.
In the early 1980's the duo Luck & Flaw produced caricatures of England's Royal Family these being highly collectible nowadays especially as the factory that made them closed in 1989.
Carlton Ware as it was known produced some very imaginative designs one of the most popular being their 'walking leg' pieces.
Hundreds of wooden egg cups have been made over the years. In fact, some of the earliest egg cups were made of wood. Many different types of wood have been used to make egg cups such as maple, pine, rosewood, mahogany, olive wood, fruit woods, oak, birch, ash, walnut, the list goes on especially when you take into account all the wooden eggs cups made abroad. Modern egg cups we see today are factory made and very inexpensive.
Most European pottery firms large and small have a range of egg cups in their pattern books, some had short production runs and some were made for many years, i.e., Minton 'Haddon Hall' first appeared in 1949 and still being produced today.
The egg cup has to be one of the world's simplest and successful ideas produced in countless 1000's but really has become 'collectable' during the past few decades. Collecting egg cups is called "pocillovy."