Do You Need to Own an Egg Spoon?
It is exhausting to be a human woman
Egg spoons make people really cranky. Not people who have them—they're living the dang dream. It's folks not currently in possession of this polarizing implement who seem to get all worked up about egg spoons. I'm not referring to the slim-tipped spoons specifically scaled to remove the innards from a soft-boiled egg. (The bowls of those are often gold-washed to keep the sulphur in the yolks from tarnishing the silver and you'd think that people would get their noses out of joint over the schmancy semiotics of all that, but not so much.) Nor am I referring to the so-called "badass" perforated egg-poaching spoon hawked in the gadget section of chef-author Michael Ruhlman's website, but hey, sure, they seem cool.
This is a very particular spoon, and there probably aren't that many in existence. This is likely due to the lack of open-flame hearths in the average home kitchen, and possibly because they are almost by necessity hand-forged, often by a San Francisco-based blacksmith named Angelo Garro. Spoons of this ilk have handles that are around two feet long, culminating in a bowl that is large enough to cradle one exceptionally coddled egg. Not "coddled" in the cream-cooked way, but rather the sustainalocaganivore way where the fowl that excreted it has a higher FICO score and terminal degree than you do, but no student loans to pay back. Warm the bowl of the spoon over the lit coals of your kitchen hearth (I suppose a fireplace would work, too, but I am not a member of the spoonerati), slick it with some olive oil, sprinkle in some herbs, and slip that fancy-ass egg into there to puff and crisp in the smouldering heat. It is, by all accounts that I've seen, a simply magical breakfast implement. It also makes people incandescent with rage.
I suspect it's not the actual egg spoon. That it's just a lightning rod for people who are mad at the kind of people—OK, women—privileged enough to own hand-forged egg spoons. The matter was most recently at the center of an internet tizzy when Vogue writer, cookbook author, and former Chez Panisse cook Tamar Adler mentioned cooking with one in the course of her recent Grub Street Diet—a long-running feature in which subjects obsessively detail everything they eat for a few consecutive days.
I've written one of these and it's absolutely terrifying both because it makes you confront your own personal grossness, and also opens you up to an astonishing level of criticism from strangers. Eat something perceived as declasse or overly caloric, and you're a slob, free of taste or personal restraint. Enjoy something on the rarefied or pricey side, or give enough of a hang about a particular food to own a highly-specific implement with which to make it and well laaaa-deeee-daaaa, don't you think you're special? Adler, who chronicled six days of her Hudson, New York, writerly life of Mason jars beverages, a wood stove-warmed carriage house office (BTW, that's how she cooked the egg), CSA-share greens, cooking for her young son, and an awful lot of dried apricots, fell splat into the latter category and boy howdy, would people not shut up about the egg spoon, gesturing at it as a symbol of culinary privilege and preciousness not seen on display like that since... since... ohhhh!
In the now-legendary 2009 60 Minutes segment "The Mother of Slow Food," Chez Panisse owner and activist Alice Waters told Lesley Stahl that she didn't own a microwave and doesn't shop at conventional supermarkets and then of course she whipped out the friggin' egg spoon and frizzled up the greatest breakfast of the journalist's life, and everyone who watched and commented was all, "Awwww, that is lovely and highly relatable, and we thoroughly respect that this woman is precise enough about her craft that she owns an object specially designed to perfect it and we should all strive to eat that way and get back to basics in our cooking!"
Hahahahaha wait, no, of course they didn't; everyone pointed and laughed and called her elitist and out of touch. Sure, that's not entirely off-base, and there is an extraordinary amount of privilege in having the time and resources to fuss over an egg that could have been fried in a cast-iron pan on the stovetop. But in a 2017 interview with Remodelista, Waters' daughter Fanny Singer fondly recalled that ritual from her childhood as the way her mother communicated to her that manual work is sometimes its own reward. "Doing something in a slightly slower, even sometimes less efficient way, is actually really pleasurable," she said, noting that part of this was a little extra time in the kitchen with her mother.
Francis Mallmann is not having any of that last bit. Per the recent and rather epic Esquire profile "Is Francis Mallmann the Most Interesting Chef in the World?" the fella known to most for his smoke-soaked turn on the Netflix series Mind of a Chef makes an annual Easter effort to collect all his children on the remote Patagonian island where he lives, but notes that they are "scarred" by his "scorched-earth" approach to life. “My path of freedom has not made everybody happy,” he told the author—but back to that scorching. Mallmann is world-renowned for his open-fire cooking technique and in the course of the story, roasts a lamb on a wooden cross near blazing wood, and it's eaten with bare-handed Dionysian joy by the assembled. At no point does he whip out an egg spoon, but I just know in the depths of my soul that if he had, no one would have made a peep about how pretentious that was. They'd just be crowing about how he's very goddamned baller.