Many years ago,
in an act of brilliance,
in my humble opinion,
the Nobel Prize winning author Heinrich Böll
used the simple act of eating eggs,
the only thing left between a down-at-the-heels Clown
to compare him to his wealthy businessman, good catholic, and solid Nazi-supporting burgher father’s
breakfasting on eggs in a tall glass,
the ultimate form of elegance in German society at the time.
Anger at a social form that banned Böll’s work?
But also a brilliant characterization of the society of the time.
The artist vs the industrialist.
In general, Germans still don’t eat eggs as a meal.
Unless you are breakfasting in a hotel,
for five stars,
you get a chef who makes personal omelettes,
for four stars, you get warm cooked eggs in all variations,
including poached eggs in a tall glass,
three stars will normally get you scrambled eggs,
and in a bed and breakfast,
a single soft boiled egg,
often in a beautifully formed egg holder,
of fine metal or of traditional bone china.
(Although, for children, Bart Simpson,
or Darth Vader with a spoon instead of a light-sword,
May the yolk be with you)
Germans and eggs.
A long and difficult history.
And what about in the family?
unless someone has been out all night drinking…
(here the tradition of the prairie oyster, eggs and tobasco, has been slowly adopted,
mostly from English bedroom farces, which are popular here,
but more often, after New Years Eve, for example, you are hit with a plate of raw herring with onions for breakfast.
The best reason I know not to drink.)
…eggs, in the family, are for Sunday and holidays only.
and, of course,
each perched jauntily in a beautiful porcelein egg cup.
And it is with these egg cups,
which, on holidays like Easter or Christmas
bear the names of great- great- grandmother Elfrieda Hulda,
or great-great-grandfather Siegfried Otto,
that the continuity of the family is shown.
Some time ago,
feeling somewhat traditional,
but not really ready for Elfrieda Hulda,
I bought a set for us for Easter-
two ducks, a male with a hat, pipe, and newspaper,
briefcase in one hand,
a large removable spoon in the other.
His wife, looking a bit like a homemaking Daisy duck,
holds a purse and shopping bag,
and her spoon.
I also have a set of beautiful and elegant mallards,
in case we get guests.
Cute, usable, and showing the importance of the egg in traditional German society.
And Böll wasn’t the only one who recognized that.
Hermann Hesse got his Nobel for, among other things, Damian,
the story of how the bird symbolically breaks from the egg,
and flies to God.
Steinbeck is full of images of discussions of farmers selling eggs,
or people eating eggs for various reasons.
He also has a Nobel.
And, of course, the Nobel laureate Faulkner, a rabid bird watcher and egg collector,
uses eggs and birds in all of his works through The Sound And The Fury.
Sunday morning in Germany.
I wonder if a defrosted egg mc muffin and a discussion of eggs in literature gets me closer to a Nobel?
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2 thoughts on “And Gutenberg Lived Here: Would You Like Your Eggs In A Glass?”
Thank you, John. Lol sounds to me like when you break an egg getting it into the pan and serve it as scrambled. WIith savoire faire.
Thanks, Ramana. Souds a bit like a western omlette. Will try it out and let you know.
I was once asked when staying in a German guest house … “What do you English people like for breakfast ?” … “Bacon and eggs” I replied.
The next morning, instead of cold meats and cheese, I received a plate of bacon and eggs all chopped up and mashed together !
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