Friday, March 25, 2011

Egg: The roundish reproductive body produced by the female of certain animals, as birds and most reptiles, consisting of an ovum and its envelope of albumen, jelly, membranes, egg case, or shell, according to species. Mm..yummy.

A burnt egg.

Oh, how I love the Jewish calendar. One festivity ends, and another one is on its way. While all Jewish holidays seem to be represented by one or two dishes, Pesach has at least 20 different symbolic foods prepared in its honour. Matzah, marror, charoset – they’ve all had their moments of glory. Alas, it is time for the burnt egg to have its turn in the spotlight. Coincidentally this ode to an egg has come at a good time with Easter on the way.

 A little bit of history:
The roasted egg is a feature on the Seder plate, along with its 6 other counterparts. In addition to the Seder plate, the egg  features in a large proportion of Pesach cookery including the well renowned kremselach, egg lockshen, kugels, cakes and ice cream. We would be lost without eggs on Pesach. I remember being told as a child that eggs are a symbol of life continuity because of their round shape and as an egg is given to a family when a child is born and eaten as part of the mourner’s meal. I was also taught that the burnt egg represents the offering (Karban Chagiga) brought in the times of the Temple, while the burning is symbolic of the Temple’s destruction.

Now in my old age, I’ve realized there is a little more to it. An interesting theory I came across is the belief that an un-hatched egg signifies an incomplete religious state. This is similar to the state that the Israelites released from Egypt were in. Although they had their freedom, they weren’t spiritually complete until they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. I’ve added my own interpretation to this – dipping our eggs into salt water adds a bitter taste, corresponding to the ‘incomplete’ state we remain in, despite receiving the Torah thousands of years ago. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to be eating a hatched egg, regardless of the religious state I was in. Eggcellent.

A Spot of Nutrition:
The good, the bad, and the ugly?
I always prefer to start with the bad. Because of the high temperatures used in the burning process certain substances, known as ‘polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons’ (or PAHs if you want to avoid that mouthful) and  heterocyclic amines (HAs) are produced, which have been shown to link to cancer. HAs are only produced from cooking meat, so no need to worry about them when it comes to eggs, while small amounts of PAHs are also  found in the environment.

Moving quickly along - and now for the good. Popular belief indicates that eggs are high in cholesterol and therefore we should steer clear of them. Well, the good news is, high amounts of cholesterol in our body don’t tend to come from foods that contain cholesterol (like eggs, liver and seafood). They’re usually a result of genetics or foods that are high in saturated fat, like butter and animal fat. The butter used to fry an egg, would be more of an issue than the egg itself. In fact, eggs should be included as part of a healthy diet. If you’re generally eating a balanced diet, you don’t need to limit the amount of eggs you eat per week unless your GP has told you otherwise.

One large egg has about 6 grams of protein and 3.8 grams of total fat – with 2.5 of these grams coming from healthy monounsaturated fat. Eggs also offer a bonus nutrient – choline – which helps with our brain and memory function. Don’t forget about the Vitamin B12, iron and zinc in eggs, which is great for any vegetarians (sorry vegans) out there, who often find these nutrients difficult to get in.

Try this at your Seder:
This game provides much entertainment at my family Seder. How many times can you put the word ‘egg’ in your sentence? Here’s an eggsample:
Eggsactly, I eggree. Eggalitarianism is eggstremely important in mans eggsistance” 

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