Class conscious

Alfred Hitchcock did not like eggs. His father had been a poulterer, and they reminded him of his lowly origins. Boiled eggs he especially despised. "There is no fouler stench," he maintained, "than that arising from a boiled egg." But I think boiled eggs are quite smart, especially when eaten in the correct manner - that is, by tapping the top of the shell with one's teaspoon, and picking away the shards.

It is not done, in middle- and upper-class circles, to slice cleanly through the top with a blade, the action, in all probability, being too traumatically reminiscent of 1789. Egg soldiers - long, thin bits of toast for boiled egg yolk-dipping - are marshalled only in middle-class households, and Nabokov, the son of an aristocrat (albeit a Russian one), said there is no finer delicacy in the world than a soft-boiled egg. You couldn't imagine him saying that about fried eggs. For that, we must look to another writer such as, I don't know, Jeremy Clarkson.

Ordinary fried eggs are the staple kind of eggs available in transport cafes and so on, although it might be amusing to pretend that this was in doubt, for example, by saying to the proprietor: "When you advertise '2 x egg on toast', I hope you don't mean two quail's eggs, because that would be very unsatisfying."

If you ask for scrambled eggs in any downmarket cafe, you'll see the "chef" reach into a cupboard for a little-used saucepan, possibly swearing under his breath at having to forsake the frying pan that is practically an extension of his right hand.

For the same reason, he is not going to be very keen on doing you a poached egg, either. I remember clearly my first poached egg: it was served to me as a boy in one of the smarter sort of Blackpool boarding houses. This poached egg of theirs seemed extremely exotic, all of a piece with the colour TV in the lounge and the en suite bathrooms.

Omelettes are fascinatingly widespread socially, despite their poncey French name, although it is house style on the menu in greasy spoons to miss out that first "e" (and possibly quite a few other letters in the word besides).

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