Category Archives: Home Economics in 1970

Egg magic


Eggs are teaching magic. My science degree will impress them – a little biology, some physics and a bit of birdwatching along the way.

The egg is the centre of my cooking world, the source of endless cheap dishes, and a great way to teach nutrition. 

‘Go to work on an egg’ was the advert from The Egg Marketing Board found in newpapers, magazines and comedian Tony Hancock and Patricia Hayes did a funny TV advert. ‘Rich in protein and very good value’ Patricia trilled and that’s my message today. If I have an egg, I have a lesson, and even a breakfast to go to work on – or in my case, to boil up when I get to my classroom.

‘Gather round and stand in a circle – I’m going to show you a trick.’

I roll the egg gently in the centre of the floor. It curls, curves and circles back. 

‘Look at that for magic – see how it returns to me. In nature it rolls back if it falls out of the nest. That’s why seagulls have very pointed eggs. They build nests on cliff edges and this way the egg rolls back in a very tight circle.’

My science brain questions this story as I’m thinking that seagulls’ nests cling to the sides of cliffs and the eggs would more likely drop over the cliff edge than roll back to their scrappy nests.  But I’ve got their attention and later I’ll tell them about the poor, beak-clipped battery chickens stuck in cages never seeing a nest or daylight and that lay most of the eggs sold in the shops. I’ve visited an egg farm and seen how their eggs drop through the bars of their prison cages and down into collecting tubes. These sad, featherless birds blinked at me for rescue but their next stop was the chicken pie factory and they wouldn’t need plucking. Battery farmed eggs are cheap, perfect for my low budget cookery recipes and we, the public, don’t seem to care.

Best quality eggs used have a Little Lion symbol stamped on their shells but my box of eggs has no logo and gives no clues to show when or where the eggs have been laid. No dates and no worries about how old, but I know that there is a TEST.

‘How do you know if an egg is fresh Emily?’

I’m trying to give the girls more attention as I’ve neglected them in class when boisterous boys shoot up their hands and shout when I ask a question.

We wait for quiet, gentle Emily to give an answer, but she’s surrounded by male cries of ‘Ask me, ask me!’ ‘I know!’

The boys’ enthusiasm must be ignored. My girls have equal importance in this thrusting, testosterone-filled world, and I have to give them a chance.

Ray can’t contain himself any more.

‘Miss you can smell if it’s off – it stinks. They’re good for stink bombs.’

I give Ray a stern look. Some boys nod and nudge and it feels like there’s a glint of a plot. Ray is right. An off egg has the disgusting smell of sulphur but it is the girl’s turn. They must not be bullied into silence.

‘OK Emily, come and help me with the egg test.’

Emily stands beside the large jug of salty water on my demonstration table. She’s nervous as I hand her three raw eggs. Two eggs have been bought recently and the other comes from my old egg collection that I hide in the store cupboard just for this age test.  Once someone wandered in used one and the stench was unbearable.

‘Emily, drop each egg carefully into a jug of salted water – the fresh eggs sink and the stale egg floats.’

One of the eggs bobs to the top of the water and the others are suspended in between.

‘See, this floating egg is stale so we don’t use it. Thankyou Emily for helping.’

Miss, the Magician has done it again, and I’ve let the girls have a turn. This lesson is going well and I’ve got more egg tricks to share andl take this session into the stratosphere.

‘Did you know that whole eggs are passed over a light to see if they are clear inside with no strange bits or chicks growing? It’s called candling and you can do it with a candle. Emily, can you hold the candle and light it please?’

I hold an egg in front of the flame. The egg shell shines and the candle flame is bloody hot but you can’t see through it like the textbook photo. This piece of magic proves nothing. Just that the egg shell shines, and that candle flame is hot. I’m no better at tricks than Tommy Cooper so change tack before I lose my dignity.

They’ve each got an egg, a nice Beryl Ware saucer and a dinner knife.

‘OK. Go back to your places, crack your egg shell in half and slide the contents onto the middle of the saucer. Now for a biology lesson.’

‘Aren’t we cooking today, miss? I don’t want theory.’

Len struggles with reading and writing. He’s neat and quiet in his age group and he says that cookery is his favourite subject. He can ‘do’ cookery but he slides out of the school gates to miss other lessons.

‘Len, we’ll cook when we’ve finished this bit.

‘Crack your eggs and look at the air sac in the top of the shell. This is where the chick takes its first breath before it pecks its way out.’

Egg shells are lined with a thin white membrane and this air sac is one of nature’s mysteries.

‘Do we ever get chicks in our eggs then?’ Len’s enthusiasm is returning.

Some of the girls look up from their shells with alarm. Once again, I forget some city kids tell me that milk comes from the milkman and fish fingers from the freezer in the supermarket. I don’t know if they are teasing but the source of the most of the food chain seems unknown.

‘It’s OK – there are no chicks in these eggs. The hens have been reared in cages with no cockerels around.’

The room puzzles. Hens, cockerels and chicks? Which reminds me – I’ve got a sex education lesson with my form next week and need some condoms.

They crack their eggs onto saucers and poke at the air sac in the shell.

‘Look at the yolk. Can you see the germ – the tiny white circle where the chick grows?’

‘You said this egg won’t be a chick?’

Len is increasingly frustrated and wants to get COOKING.

‘See the two chords – the chalaza – which hold the yolk in place. And the thick and thin whites. ’

They peer at their saucers. What’s the point in this?

‘Miss, when are we cooking?’

It’s Len again. 

‘You might have to draw a cross section of an egg for the exam, so I’m showing you what it looks like!’

Here she goes again. The exam – everything is learnt to pass the bloody exam. Len’s leaving at Easter so no tests for him. But I’ll be judged on the class grades and poor results lead to challenges in my teaching methods.

‘OK class, we’re making Chocolate Mousse – it’s just raw egg and chocolate.’

‘Scoop out the yolk carefully and put it into a bowl – don’t break it. Then whisk the egg white in another bowl until it is stiff. It’s done when you can turn the bowl upside down’

The rotary whisks whir. The upside down test is the most wasteful test- if the bowl is turned over too early the whole lot plops on the floor, accompanied by hilarious screams. Then a gathering round the sticky, eggy mess which streams over the uneven slats of the wooden floor. So we must start again. Thank goodness eggs are cheap.

The cheap cooking chocolate for this recipe is high in fat and low in tasty cocoa. Occasionally, when I’ve no time to leave the room, it’s my store cupboard lunch along with wrinkled sultanas and bright green chunks of angelica.

‘Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, stir in the yolk and then fold into the whisked white – gently!’

Soft, brown mixtures are spooned into glass sundae dishes, topped with a glacé cherry and brought for marking served on a saucer with a frilly d’oyley. Someone should make Beryl Ware with a d’oyley imprint. It would save much time and loss of exam marks. The brown gloop can’t leave the classroom. It must be eaten or scraped in the bin.  I don’t want the bus company complaining again of sticky seats after my cooking class has travelled home.

Eggs are teaching magic. My science degree will impress them – a little biology, some physics and a bit of birdwatching along the way.

The egg is the centre of my cooking world, the source of endless cheap dishes, and a great way to teach nutrition. 

‘Go to work on an egg’ was the advert from The Egg Marketing Board found in newpapers, magazines and comedian Tony Hancock and Patricia Hayes did a funny TV advert. ‘Rich in protein and very good value’ Patricia trilled and that’s my message today. If I have an egg, I have a lesson, and even a breakfast to go to work on – or in my case, to boil up when I get to my classroom.

‘Gather round and stand in a circle – I’m going to show you a trick.’

I roll the egg gently in the centre of the floor. It curls, curves and circles back to me. 

‘Look at that for magic – see how it rolls back to me. In nature it rolls back if it falls out of the nest. That’s why seagulls have very pointed eggs. They build nests on cliff edges and this way the egg rolls back in a very tight circle.’

My science brain questions this story as I’m thinking that seagulls’ nests cling to the sides of cliffs and the eggs would more likely drop over the cliff edge than roll back into the nest.  But I’ve got their attention and later I’ll tell them about the poor, beak-clipped battery chickens stuck in cages that never see a nest or daylight and that lay most of the eggs that we buy. I’ve visited an egg farm and seen how their eggs drop through the bars of their prison cages and down into collecting tubes. These sad, featherless birds blinked at me for rescue but their next stop was the chicken pie factory and they wouldn’t need plucking. The public don’t care. Battery farming makes eggs cheap and perfect for my low budget cookery recipes.

Best quality eggs used have a Little Lion symbol stamped on their shells but my box of eggs gives no clues to show when or where the eggs have been laid. No dates and no worries about how old, but I know that there is a TEST.

‘How do you know if an egg is fresh Emily?’

I’m trying to give the girls more attention as I’ve been neglecting them in class as the boisterous boys shoot up their hands or shout out when I ask a question.

We wait for quiet, gentle Emily to give an answer, but she’s surrounded by male cries of ‘Ask me, ask me!’ ‘I know!’

I ignore the boys’ enthusiasm this time. My girls have equal importance in this thrusting, testosterone-filled world, and I must give them a chance.

Ray can’t contain himself any more.

‘Miss you can smell if it’s off – it stinks. They’re good for stink bombs.’

I give Ray a stern look. Some of the boys nod and nudge and it feels like there’s a glint of a new plot. But Ray’s right, an off egg has the disgusting smell of sulphur but it is the girl’s turn. They must not be bullied into silence.

‘OK Emily, come and help me with the egg test.’

Emily stands by the large jug of salty water on my demonstration table. She’s nervous as I hand her three eggs. Two eggs have been bought recently and the other comes from the collection of old eggs that I keep hidden in the store cupboard especially for this age test.  Sometimes, I forget, and we use them anyway.

‘Emily, drop each egg carefully into a jug of salted water – the fresh eggs sink and the stale egg floats.’

One of the eggs bobs to the top of the water and the others are suspended in between.

‘See, this floating egg is stale so we don’t use it. Thankyou Emily for helping.’

Miss, the Magician has done it again, and I’ve let the girls have a turn. This lesson is going well and I’ve got more egg tricks to share which will take this session into the stratosphere.

‘Did you know that whole eggs are passed over a light to see if they are clear inside with no bloody bits or chicks growing? It’s called candling and you can do it with a candle. Emily, can you hold the candle and light it please?’

I hold my egg in front of the flame. The egg shell shines and the candle flame is bloody hot but you can’t see through it like The Egg Marketing photo. This piece of magic proves nothing. Just that the egg shell shines golden, and that candle flame is hot. I’m no better at tricks than Tommy Cooper so change tack before I lose my dignity.

They’ve each got an egg, a nice Beryl Ware saucer and a dinner knife.

‘OK. Go back to your places, crack your egg shell in half and slide the contents onto the middle of the saucer. I’m going to give you a biology lesson.’

‘Aren’t we cooking today, miss? I don’t want theory.’

Len struggles with reading and writing. He’s neat and well dressed for his age and he says that cookery is his favourite subject. He can ‘do’ cookery but he slides out of the school gates to miss other lessons.

‘Len, we’ll cook when we’ve finished this bit.

‘Crack your eggs and look at the air sac in the top of the shell. This is where the chick takes its first breath before it pecks its way out.’

The egg shell is lined with a thin white membrane and this air sac is one of nature’s mysteries.

‘Do we ever get chicks in our eggs then?’ Len’s enthusiasm is returning.

Some of the girls look up from their shells with alarm. Once again, I forget some city kids tell me that milk comes from the milkman and fish fingers from the freezer in the supermarket. I don’t know if they are teasing but the source of the most of the food chain seems unknown.

‘It’s OK – there are no chicks in these eggs. The hens have been reared in cages with no cockerels around.’

The room puzzles. Hens, cockerels and chicks? Which reminds me – I’ve got a sex education lesson next week with my form group and need some condoms.

They crack their eggs onto saucers and poke at the air sac in the shell.

‘Look at the yolk. Can you see the germ – the tiny white circle where the chick grows?’

‘You said this egg won’t be a chick?’

Len is increasingly frustrated by my teaching methods and wants to get on with COOKING.

‘See the two chords – the chalaza – which hold the yolk in place. And the thick and thin whites. ’

They peer at their saucers. What’s the point in this?

‘Miss, when are we cooking?’

It’s frustrated Len again. 

‘You might get asked to draw a cross section of an egg for the exam, so I’m showing you what it looks like.’

Here she goes again. The exam – everything is learnt to pass the bloody exam.

Len’s leaving at Easter so no tests for him. But I’ll be judged on the grades of the rest of the class and poor results means I’ll be accused of poor teaching.

‘OK class, we’re ready to make Chocolate Mousse – it’s just raw egg and chocolate.’

‘Scoop out the yolk carefully and put it into a bowl – don’t break it. Then whisk the egg white until it is stiff.’

The room whirs with rotary whisks.

‘When it’s ready you can turn the bowl upside down and the eggs whites stay in.’

This is the most stupid and wasteful test of all. If they turn the bowl over too early the whole lot plops on the floor, accompanied by screams of hilarity. The sticky, eggy mess which streams over the uneven slats of the wooden floor can’t be rescued and we must start again. Thank goodness eggs are cheap.

Chocolate mousse is easy to make. We use cheap cooking chocolate which is high in fat and low in tasty cocoa and if it’s in the storeroom, it’s added to my lunchtime meal of sultanas and angelica.

‘Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, stir in the yolk and then fold the melted chocolate gently into the whites – gently!’

Good mousses are light and fluffy. Bad mousses are just a runny mess which still taste delicious.

They pile the soft, brown mixture into glass dishes, top with a glacé cherry and bring for marking on a saucer with a frilly d’oyley. Someone should make Beryl Ware with a d’oyley imprint. It would save much time and loss of exam marks. The brown gloop must not leave the classroom. It must be eaten or scraped in the bin.  I don’t want the bus company complaining again of sticky seats after my cooking class has travelled home.

2020 update‘Go to work on an egg’ is an advert at the time, made famous by Fay Weldon
These are the days before Edwina Currie’s egg and salmonella scare. By the 1980’s chocolate mousse made from raw eggs will be a pot of poison.

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Filed under 1970 cookery recipes, Boys cooking, Cookery exams in the 1970s, Foods of the 1970s, Home Economics in 1970, Jenny Ridgwell