What's wrong with that picture? Well, the egg looks moist and delicious with a yolk that is runny and perfect for dipping in a corner of buttered toast.
Food editors who swap messages on a list serve were chattering Monday about the Food & Drug Administration's latest announcement in the massive shell-egg recall: Cook your eggs until they are hard and the yolks are dry. For those of us who were around in the 1990s, that's a return to business as usual.
I had the luck to start covering food in the summer of 1990, when the first cases of salmonella contamination in eggs erupted just a few weeks after I was assigned to the beat. I had barely figured out how to spell "FDA" and I was trying to explain to people how to make custard-based ice cream without raw eggs, and what to do with their Hollandaise and mayonnaise recipes. In the 20 years since then, I've learned to type this one by rote: "Uncooked eggs can be dangerous for infants, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems."
Truthfully, though, undercooked eggs didn't go away. Because they taste good. The American Egg Board issued a statement this morning with this sentence: "Thoroughly cooked eggs are thoroughly safe eggs." Yes, they are. Unfortunately, they are also throughly tasteless eggs, with yolks that taste like library paste and whites that chew like rubber.
Over the intervening years since the original egg warnings, most of us found ways to adapt. We either did without dishes made with undercooked eggs, or we found ways to minimize the risk. For myself, I started buying eggs from farmers who produce them in small batches, because there is less risk of contamination. Unfortunately, I also had to get used to paying $5 for a dozen eggs. Yes, they're great eggs, with tall, dark-yellow yolks, but they're not exactly a cheap indulgence.
Yes, we still can get cheap eggs. Unfortunately, that means coming to terms with eggs that are
produced on large-farm operations, where contamination spreads quickly throughout the food system. And means recognizing that those eggs need to be cooked more thoroughly.
Don't you think 20 years should have been enough time to come up with a system that's better than telling us the solution to egg contamination is in how we're cooking, not in how we're raising chickens?