I tend towards the Richard Dawkins and Brian Cox view of the origin of life rather than those shared by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Pope Francis I. While there is no explanation of what caused and/or preceded the Big Bang – thus leaving room for God – those who argue against evolution simply don’t understand the sheer magnitude of the timescales and basic physics involved. The case for evolution by natural selection is not just beyond reasonable doubt – it is beyond any but the most blinkered of doubts, and there is no converting someone who has their fingers in their ears and is yelling “la la la la laaaaaaa la laaaaaaa” at the top of their voice to the tune of “All things bright and beautiful”.
However, I can at least begin to appreciate how someone could find it so difficult to understand how something as complex as (to use an example often referenced by creationists) the eye “just happened”. It is hard to extrapolate the simple evolution that we see happening in the context of our own life spans (although, as with all things threatening religious beliefs, fiercely debated) to the complete formation of an organ that interprets electromagnetic waves in a way that allows us to know the location of something we cannot touch.
Although I’m familiar with the explanation of the evolution of the eye most famously published by Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker, in recent times I have found myself increasingly marvelling at the wondrous miracle that is the egg. You can almost imagine some deific being sitting down with a pencil and a piece of paper on day 15 million of “Project Creation” and thinking “right, let’s design the perfect ingredient for those people who like mashing together all those bits of life we’ve come up with so far – something that can act as a glue to hold them together, fluffy padding to make them light, an enamel to make them shiny on the outside, an emulsion to hold together plant dust to make a crispy case, or that can just be heated in one of half a dozen different ways and eaten as they are”. Presumably the being concerned would then wilt in the face of the challenge it had just set itself and instead decide to focus on just inventing enamel, or emulsion.
The egg is an amazing bit of evolutionary happenstance. There are few foods that can be so simply prepared in so many different but equally tasty ways, and which are a component of such a large subset of human diet. How can a single ingredient form such a major part of such different creations as meringues and mayonnaise? It comes in its own biodegradable packaging, doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge, and can even be used raw in a debatable hangover cure. You couldn’t have designed it any better, even if you were just taking a break between creating the sky and the land.
I’ve been asked in the past what food I could least do without and have (especially since my part-time veggieism commenced) unthinkingly answered “cheese“, but on reflection I would struggle more to cope with the loss of eggs, considering not only the reliance on them for bread, pasta, cakes and ice-cream, but the unbeatable simple pleasures of fried eggs and bacon in a roll, a peppered poached egg on a buttery toasted muffin or Parma ham and scrambled eggs on toasted ciabatta.
There are a couple of reasons that caused me to write about eggs this week. Firstly of course, it’s nearly Easter, although decorated and/or chocolate eggs are rather more inspired by the pagan festivals that preceded the Christian celebration of the resurrection. Secondly though we were given some eggs at the weekend by a friend who has some chickens, and made the most marvellous omelette I have ever eaten the very next day, served with a couple of slices of buttered bread. Oh, go on then, if I must: it was eggs-traordinary…
The best mushroom omelette in the world (probably)
Served 2 big people plus a little one
- One onion, finely chopped
- 150g closed cup mushrooms, sliced
- 50g mixed dried mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped – we used porcini
- 50g Parmesan, grated
- 5 medium eggs
- 50g butter (yes really)
- Tsp of paprika
- Splash of olive oil
- Splash of milk
- Salt and black pepper
Heat an oven to 200C. Put the olive oil in an oven-proof frying pan and soften the onions for 5-10 minutes. Turn the heat up and add the mushrooms, seasoning heavily. Take off the heat after 2-3 minutes, stir in the butter, and when melted pop in the oven to roast for 7-8 minutes. Beat the eggs in a jug with the milk, paprika and some more seasoning. Pop the frying pan back on the hob (remember to use an oven glove now!) and add the egg mixture, stirring quickly and evenly through the mushrooms and then allowing to set. After five minutes or so, liberally sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and finish for 3 minutes or so under the grill until golden all over.
I think this would have been bettered by a handful of chopped fresh parsley stirred into the egg mixture but we didn’t have any in and it was great anyway.