Which came first, the chicken or the egg? So asks the inside jacket of "Eggs: A Global History" by our late Diane Toops.
While she never answers that age-old question (who could?), Diane does explore the history and lore of the noble egg, looking at how its significance has represented the preoccupations of the cultures that consume it.
Throughout history, the egg has taken on numerous meanings outside of the famous philosophical dilemma. For example, in Hindu scripture, the world began as an egg. Laid by a swan floating on the waters of chaos, after a year the egg split into silver and gold halves, with the silver becoming the Earth and the gold transforming into the sky. It was used by the Mayans to cure the evil eye. The Greeks used eggs as a protection against lightning. For Christians, it's a symbol of rebirth.
After explaining the many varieties of eggs and the places that favor them, Diane sketches a history of its uses from their origins until the present day, when they have become an integral part of modern cuisine. She explores how eggs today are marketed as a health food and discusses the debates over their nutritional status. Filled with appetizing recipes and beguiling images, this protein-packed book will enthrall anyone with an interest in cuisine or cultural history.
For 24 years, Diane Toops was News & Trends Editor of Food Processing until she died in late 2012. The book is a fine memorial, finished just after her passing. It's published by Reaktion Books of London, with North American distribution handled by University of Chicago Press.
For more citations from the book and to order it, see press.uchicago.edu.