All this talk lately of Toast soldiers brings egg cups to mind. I can’t remember seeing an egg cup as a child.
We ate hard-boiled eggs, particularly in egg salad, but not soft-boiled eggs in the shell. Poached eggs were served on toast, a dish I avoided because of the hard white strands of albumen that were ever-present.
When I did start eating soft-boiled eggs it was in an environment where my eggs were removed from their shells before being served. Somewhere, however, I must have made the acquaintance of egg cups. I salute the man or woman who invented them as these little bits of tableware prevent burnt fingers as well as soiled table linens.
An egg cup is a small chalice with a very short stem. It can be made of any hard material although a non-conductive substance is best. Glass, china, wood, pottery and various metals are often used.
Silver egg cups are not a good idea as sulfur from the egg tarnishes this metal upon contact. I once had a pair of modern chrome egg cups shaped from coiled springs, but they were hard to clean if the yellow of the egg yolk oozed out of the shell and hardened in the coils.
I have a French set in royal blue glass depicting six roosters with outspread wings, each carrying a tall, narrow cup on his back. A bit silly, as I’ve never seen that particular national bird doing anything useful that he could crow about.
More often than not, egg cup design is rather whimsical. Those for children abound in bunny rabbits and Winnie the Pooh characters, sometimes with wee spoons whose handles are the same characters.
Tiny spoons are a good idea when using egg cups, regardless of the egg eater’s actual age. Demitasse coffee spoons are excellent. Even if most of the egg is eaten with soldiers, there is always a bit of egg white to be scraped out of the pointy end of the shell.
The demitasse cup itself is a useful substitute when no egg cup is available. A wooden napkin ring also serves the same purpose : to hold the egg upright and keep the yolk in the shell.
An egg cup generally is presented on a saucer. This is useful to hold the shell removed from the top of the egg. It also catches any bits of yolk that escape and run down the side of the cup. Sometimes the egg is covered with an egg cozy, a tiny blanket crocheted from heavy thread, which is intended to keep the bald shell warm.
There is a certain methodology in eating from an egg cup. Removing the top of the egg is the first step. One school of thought is to boldly slice off the top with a knife blade. This is fine, perhaps, if the egg is well-cooked. If the egg is very lightly boiled it is more prudent to tap the top end gently with the rounded bottom of a spoon. Then the bits of cracked shell can be prized off and deposited in the saucer.
Once the egg is opened, it is usually necessary to eat any bits of egg white protruding above what is remaining of the egg shell. This makes it all neat and tidy. Then the egg can be eaten from the shell, either with a spoon or with bits of bread or toast. Before doing this, salt and pepper can be added and, if desired, a sliver of butter inserted into the yolk where the heat of the cooked egg will melt it.