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White Eggs, Brown Eggs: What's the Difference?


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott. This is the week of the egg. Passover has begun, where a roasted egg sits on the Seder plate as a symbol of the cycle of life or of mourning, depending on who you ask. And of course tomorrow is Easter where eggs, dyed or chocolate, celebrate the Resurrection.

We thought it was as good a week as any to find out the answer to a question that's been nagging us. Why are some eggs white and some eggs brown? And who better to pose that question to than Marie Simmons, author of cookbook The Good Egg. Ms. Simmons, chime right in.

Ms. MARIE SIMMONS (Author, The Good Egg): Well, brown eggs come from chickens who have brown feathers. It's as simple as that, and white eggs come from chickens that have white feathers. Brown eggs are totally equal in nutritional value. It's just a matter of regional preferences.

ELLIOTT: So once you open the egg...

Ms. SIMMONS: They're all the same in the inside. Of course, there are beautiful blue and pale green and tan-shelled eggs, and they come from a rare breed called the Araucana, but those are a mostly what we would maybe call boutique chickens, and they're not the kind of eggs you're going to find everywhere, but...

ELLIOTT: So you don't necessarily have to dye your eggs to get those pretty colors. You just have to find a rare chicken.

Ms. SIMMONS: That's right.

ELLIOTT: So why is it that white eggs are the ones that we tend to think of and see in the grocery store most often?

Ms. SIMMONS: Our supermarkets have both. We have white and brown eggs, but I think it's the consumer demand for the white egg, or the preference, that is the reason that we are supplied most likely in supermarkets with white eggs.

ELLIOTT: How is it that the egg has become such a rich religious symbol?

Ms. SIMMONS: There's all sorts of theories, but certainly the changes of the seasons. You know, hens don't lay eggs when it's dark. They need daylight. So therefore when the days were shorter in winter and the sun wasn't as bright, perhaps early people saw a relationship between the egg and the seasons and the world and the universe.

ELLIOTT: Can you leave us with a recipe for an egg dish that would work tomorrow morning for those of us who are celebrating Easter or Passover, or even just spring?

Ms. SIMMONS: One of the recipes that I think is a lot of fun and really simple for people to do is to bake an egg in a baked potato.


Ms. SIMMONS: And the recipe I have in The Good Egg is one for a russet potato that you simply bake in your usual way, and then you take it out of the oven when it's soft inside and make a slash in the center and push on the ends and take out some of that soft inside and mix it with a little bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of grated cheese, and maybe parmesan would be delicious, and then you push it back into the potato and make a little indentation.

You break an egg into a cup and then very gently slip it into that indentation, put the potato with the egg. Of course it's in a baking dish. You put it back in the oven at a high temperature, about 400 degrees, at the same temperature you were using to roast your potato or bake your potato, and then you bake it until the egg is set to the desired doneness, usually about 10, 12 minutes is plenty.

You could sprinkle a little cheese on the top. And I was thinking, as I'm telling you this recipe, that it would also work beautifully with sweet potatoes. That would be very delicious and very pretty.

ELLIOTT: Marie Simmons. She teaches cooking in Northern California and is the author of The Good Egg, which has just come out in paperback. We spoke with her from member station KQED in San Francisco. Thank you for being with us.

Ms. SIMMONS: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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