You might recall my confession of my love affair with French butter. I am only slightly less obsessed with the eggs in France. Fortunately, they are not as cruel to my figure as that outrageously addictive salted butter. Oh, butter, how I miss you. Wait- I am not thinking about butter today. Today is the glorious egg.
I am sure that most Americans are scandalized that the French do not keep their eggs refrigerated in the grocery stores. I haven’t done exhaustive research on the topic, but I think that the eggs tend to be fresher than ours when they arrive at their point of sale, and therefore do not need to be refrigerated right away. The eggs are also sold in smaller quantities (I never saw a dozen eggs in one carton at my little Franprix) and so are probably eaten more quickly and purchased more frequently. I always stuck mine in the fridge, primarily out of habit, and because my refrigerator was bigger than the average European refrigerator, so storage space was not an issue.
This is the type of eggs I buy in Paris. “Plein Air” means they were from free-range chickens. The “Code 1” also identifies the eggs as being free range (four square meters of grass-covered land per chicken). “Code 0” would indicate organic, “Code 2” would mean the chickens were free to roam in a barn, but there might have been as many as 12-15 chickens per square meter. “Code 3” would indicate caged chickens raised indoors. Poor, sad, “Code 3” chickens. The expiration date (“28/06”) will always be a maximum of thirty days.
There is also a number stamped on every single egg.
The first digit (“1”) again indicates how the chicken was raised. The other characters indicate where in France the chickens were raised and even their flock number. All we need now is the the name of the chicken! The expiration date is also repeated on the shell.
But I don’t love the eggs because they come with a fancy tattoo. The eggs in France really taste better. The yolks are large and are the most wonderful color of deep orange. No pale yellow suns on those eggs! The flavor is wonderfully fresh, too. Lucky for me that the French love to show off their eggs on lots of dishes. I always look for salads or pizzas or crepes with a delicious, runny egg on top of it. So good.
Fresh eggs are also found at all open-air markets. I haven’t been bold enough to buy any from the market yet, because I’m not sure of how to do it, but I hope to tackle that when I return to Paris. I think you can request “very fresh” or just “fresh”, depending upon how you want to use the egg. In Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan recounts an experience when the egg seller told her that the eggs she was buying were too fresh for using as an ingredient because their freshness would be wasted if the eggs were not used in a pure form. I love how the market vendors are so serious about their products and how they should best be eaten. Lord knows I need all the advice I can get when shopping there!
So now you have had your lesson on French eggs.
And not a single egg pun.