Photo by Chris Casella

Sunny Side Up

Afew years ago, I heard then U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan read a poem with the word “albumen” in it.

Aaal-buuu-men. It just dropped out of her mouth like saltwater taffy, the vowels stretchy and lingering. It’s the technical term for the white of an egg. The poem itself was about doubt, about how an abundance of doubt can hold one back from success; in this metaphorical case, a nascent chick chip-chip-chipping away at the shell in order to break free of its hard womb. If it doubts its shell-drilling ability, it will use up all the nutrients in the albumen and…pfft…die.

For a long time, we doubted the egg. Although first hypothesized in 1913 by Russian doc Niokolai Anitschkov after a study of rabbits fed high-cholesterol diets, it was in the 1960s that men with letters behind their names pointed at cholesterol and made the stink face. Medical warnings were issued about the dangers of the yolk, specifically, and its 200 or so milligrams of cholesterol. Americans were warned to limit their egg intake, resulting in a 30 percent drop in consumption, causing sighs of relief by untold flocks of tired chickens and fists of anger from egg farmers. That is when the ubiquitous whites-only omelet, pioneered by the Birkenstock-wearing granola gang, began terrorizing brunch chefs across the country.

Luckily, as with most nutritional health advice our parents were fed, this edict has been reversed. As it turns out, Dr. Anitschkov and his people were off base-—well-intentioned, but…well, wrong. The rabbit study was debunked by Lawrence Rudel, a professor at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, because, it turns out, cholesterol sensitivity is a rabbit-specific issue, not an across the board mammalian problem.  Wascaly wabbits!

Eggs are the new black: As if lifting their noses in a collective sniff to the health winds, local chefs have been romancing the egg in myriad ways.

Prior to the rabbit-induced hysteria, Americans scarfed down eggs to the tune of over 400 per year each. Today, that number hovers around 250. Just last February, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Group, which counsels the U.S government regarding nutritional issues–impacting everything from school lunches to the labels on foodstuffs–was about to take cholesterol off the out-of-bounds list. It turns out that the body creates cholesterol in response to the amount of cholesterol already in the body. So cranking up your cholesterol game doesn’t result in an overabundance of the stuff–the more you eat, the less your body produces. The U.S. is the last of the Western countries to have a cholesterol warning included in its guidelines.

There is always a “but” and the but here is that too much cholesterol does impact certain populations, especially those with diabetes. And there are other, rabbitty people who seem to have a higher sensitivity than the gen pop.

Ding, dong the witch is dead! Eggs are the new black: As if lifting their noses in a collective sniff to the health winds, local chefs have been romancing the egg in myriad ways. From the fried egg that lays atop DeNovo’s bacon and English pea macaroni and cheese to the crack-an-egg-on-it option Harvest pizzas to the poached egg that serves as a velvety, saucey complement to the salty lardons of the Bistro Salad at Gallerie.

It’s a little bit of kitchen folklore that a chef is only as good as her omelet; that goes for the home chef as well. To cook ’em like a pro, The Commissary is hosting a series called “The Good Egg.” With the hook line, “Some say that each fold in a chef’s toque represents a different way the chef knows to cook an egg.” 100 folds in the toque equals 100 different ways to cook an egg,” it’s safe to say that most have yet to earn their toque. So far, classes have included poaching, how to make a soufflé, and “Over Medium” with chef Laura Lee of Ajumama.

Yes, the egg is having a moment—or rather returning to the spotlight after all these years of being regulated to the bad foods bin, with nutritionists wagging their bony fingers at the breakfast staple. So enjoy the abundance of eggs, there’s no more doubt about their place in our diet.

For more about The Good Egg, visit thecommissarycolumbus.com.

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