Elitist Eggs

One of our most enduring social mechanisms is that by which elitism becomes far more ostensibly manifest in people who come from humble backgrounds.

Take for example any given one of those Upper East Side hipsters who infest the trendier corners of New York City and act as if they’re the apex of the social universe when in fact most if not all of them grew up in a fly-over state and moved to the city in hopes of sharing a line of coke with Ivanka Trump.

A less current but perhaps more familiar example would be Craig Claiborne, who grew up in a boarding house in Indianola, Mississippi, and eventually became the arbiter of culinary taste for the nation. Claiborne’s excesses in his disregard for the “little people” were such that he was chastised by Pope Paul VI for a $4000 dinner for two in Paris he enjoyed with his partner Pierre Franey in 1975.

L’Osservatore Romano deplored the swinish display while millions were starving, the French press noted that the price of the meal represented a year’s wages for most workers,  and American columnist Harriet Van Horne wrote–no doubt with some degree of smugness–“This calculated evening of high-class piggery offends an average American’s sense of decency. It seems wrong morally, aesthetically and in every other way”.

Claiborne was nonplussed, of course, which is the typical reaction of snobs to their extravagant self-indulgences. “Let them eat cake,” indeed.

Given this display of culinary snootery, it’s somewhat of a surprise that we find on page 312 of Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook–after a whole slew of soufflés and between two egg curries–a recipe for pickled eggs, which are to most people the least sophisticated dish in the world. Is this a chink in Claiborne’s Tiffany armor?

Perhaps, but then again perhaps not; one recipe I have from a Junior League-type cookbook published in the 1930’s claims that they’re “ever so good chopped into hash, and provide just the right touch bedded on greens with a dressing of sharp, spicy goodness.” Maybe pickled eggs acquired the blue-collar brush after they became a snack staple in Southern pool halls and honky-tonks; then again, maybe that’s where they got their start.

For every half dozen boiled eggs, bring to heat 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices, 2 slices ginger root, a crushed clove of garlic, and a tablespoon salt. Mull, cover eggs with spiced vinegar water, seal and set aside for at least 2 days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.