The eggs in the picture above all come from the same carton and the same farm. They are not like the eggs one would find in most grocery stores. First off, they are different colors and sizes. Some are, well, egg-shaped and some are longer and more oval. Some have smooth surfaces and a few are slightly rough and have little bumps. They are uneven and unpredictable, and I love them for that.
I understand the impulse to make things uniform, to homogenize and tame the unpredictable into something more manageable. I can see why someone would argue that each egg in a carton should be perfectly identical in size and weight or that milk should always taste the same. Sometimes we need to be sure, we need uniformity, we need reliability. How else can we be certain that our cakes will rise properly or that the cream soup will taste as expected?
But there's a price we pay for that regularity that we should be fully aware of. In order to squeeze nature into consistent uniformity that's also economical, we have to do some pretty nasty things to the planet and our food producing animals. Those eggs that look so perfect in the carton often come from ghastly imperfect conditions. To the extent that I can, I try to not participate in that. So if my carton of eggs are a little caddywompus? What a relief, actually. What a blessing.
Another factor is deliciousness. The oil that always tastes the same year after year has been refined of all it's nuances and unique characteristics. And again, sometimes that's OK. But it's also really wonderful to purchase an olive oil that tastes different than last year, one that was influenced by last year's unusually cool temperatures and early rains. Or that the cheese that this year is extra rich because those early rains allowed the cows to graze longer on green pastures.
I'm a romantic, it's true. But so what. I'm happy to live in a world where the butter may taste a little different in the summer than in the winter because the cows are on different feed. I'm smart and agile enough to adjust my cooking and so are you. Yes, so are you! It just takes a little experience and instinct. And a willingness to be delighted in imperfection.
So I recommend you seek out the crooked and mismatched, the rough and imperfect. I say become comfortable with (grow to prefer, even) foods that bear the imperfections of nature and the fumbling hand of human beings. Don't be fooled into thinking that homogeny is superior and instead celebrate the protean and precious unpredictability of things in deep relation to the natural world.
Note: Inspiration for this post comes from our cheesemonger Nora Singley's provocative post on the mystery of why Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk triple creme, washed rind cheese tastes so extraordinarily good this year. Which it does, oh my, it really really does.
I hope you enjoyed this encore Weekend Meditation, originally posted in June, 2010. I will be posting these vintage posts every Sunday (with the occasional new post, if I can manage!) for the next several months while I focus on writing my first book.