I thought I would share with you the tremendous respect I have for the simplest, most perfect of foods: the egg. Endowed with a rich symbolism, eggs can provide you with a quick, nutritious meal before hitting the water. They are excellent as a picnic lunch and even if they are not the sturdiest travelers, you can still take them on board when you leave for a multi-day paddling expedition.
Nutrition wise, eggs are unbeatable because they contain almost all essential nutrients at a very low cost. One large egg provides 6,3 grams of top quality protein and is filled with the 8 amino acids our body needs to function properly. Since we need roughly 15 grams of protein with each meal, two eggs will meet those requirements while delivering only 150 calories; a bonus for anyone watching their weight. Beef, for instance, contains twice as many calories for the same ratio of protein… but it also comes with saturated fat of the artery-clogging type. That's another advantage with eggs: although they have a somewhat high content of fat (5 grams for each egg), 52 % of that fat content is of the heart-healthy kind: poly and mono saturated (like olive oil). Eggs are also a good source of vitamin B12, riboflavin, vitamin D, iron, folic acid, potassium and zinc. It is true that the yolk contains a bit of cholesterol, but recent research has shown that cholesterol found in food does not transform into artery-clogging cholesterol in humans. Cholesterol in the body is rather linked to a diet rich in saturated and hydrogenated fats. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, most people can eat eggs in moderation (4 times a week) without any harmful increase in blood cholesterol. Not bad for such a humble food, right?
Eggs and the history of humankind
Eggs are also interesting because they are so closely linked in so many ways to the development of humanity. A fertility symbol since the beginning of time, they were considered by many cultures as a springtime food. In Middle-Eastern and Celtic societies, spring equinox was celebrated with the gift of red-dyed eggs that were shared at a meal followed by a ritual crushing of the shells to scare away winter. This ancient custom is still used in some parts of Germany where red-dyed eggs are hung in evergreens as a symbol of revival. The popularity of eggs as an Easter tradition comes from a Christian edict in the 9th century that banned them during Lent. The eggs were collected and saved to be distributed to children and servants on Easter morning and were eaten as an omelet. The Court of France followed that custom in the 15th century and decided to paint and decorate eggs to make them even more appealing as a springtime symbol. Then Carl Fabergé, a jeweler for the the Czar of Russia in the 19th Century, created eggs of gold, crystal and porcelain, a trend that was copied by some famous pastry chefs and led to the creation of sugar and chocolate eggs. Today hand-decorated eggs are still an important offering in many religious celebrations on Easter morning.
How to carry eggs safely on a paddling trip
Any paddler knows that eggs are fragile. But you can easily bypass that inconvenience by buying an egg carrier made of plastic, which will prevent their shell from cracking and allow you to carry them in your boat, as easily as you would less fragile cargo. Since eggs lose the equivalent of one day of freshness for each hour spent outside the fridge, make sure you treat them as you would fresh meat, fish or cheese and keep them in a cold place, surrounded by ice packs and well insulated from warm air to prevent bacteria growth, which occurs at temperatures higher than 40 F. Eggs bought at their freshest will easily keep for a month in your fridge, as long as you store them in the coldest section, not in the door, and in their original pack. The reason for that is simple: eggshells are very porous and they absorb odors quite easily. If you can duplicate those ideal conditions during a paddling trip, then go for it and bring them along. The fact they are so nutritious, cheap, quick and easy to cook and to digest makes them an ideal expedition companion for no more than 3 to 4 days.
Three easy spring egg recipes for the gourmet paddler
Eggs in maple syrup
In Quebec and in Vermont, eggs cooked in maple syrup are a wonderful traditional treat that's popular either for Easter brunch or during a meal at a sugar shack. But they are so easy to prepare and so comforting that I eventually realized they also make a perfect camping breakfast. (4 portions)
- 8 fresh eggs
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- 4 English muffins (fork split)
- Butter to spread on muffins
In this recipe, maple syrup replaces oil or butter in the cooking process of the eggs, so you can prepare your eggs just as you would in butter: scrambled, as an omelet, poached, over easy or sunny side up. In a skillet, heat maple syrup. When hot, either put eggs one by one directly in the gently boiling mixture or pour beaten eggs for scrambled eggs or an omelet. In the meantime, heat or toast the English muffins and spread them with a bit of butter. Pour the cooked eggs over with a few tbsp. of the maple syrup. Totally decadent!
Primavera Paddling Pastas
- 4 cups whole wheat small rotini or penne pasta
- 6 to 8 scallions, sliced
- 1 carrot, very thinly sliced
- 2 cups very small broccoli florets
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 6 oz grated parmesan cheese
- Salt, pepper, herbs to taste
Bring water to a boil, add salt to taste. Place pasta in boiling water and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until pasta and vegetables are cooked but still al dente. In the meantime, mix beaten eggs and cheese together, add salt, pepper and herbs to taste. Once cooked, drain the pasta and vegetables. Put back in the pot quickly, over low heat, add olive oil, the egg mixture, salt, pepper and herbs and mix well, stirring constantly for one or two minutes. Remove from heat. The eggs and cheese mixture will turn into a nicely cooked sauce. Serve immediately.
Corn and bacon scrambled eggs
- 8 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, thinly diced
- 1 small can of corn, well drained
- 4 tbsp bacon bits (vegetarian or made of real bacon)
- Salt, pepper
- 8 tsp medium salsa
Heat a large skillet, add oil, and cook onion until translucent. Add corn, beaten eggs, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring often. When almost cooked, add bacon bits. Remove from heat and stir again. Eggs should be still creamy. Serve over whole wheat English muffins or bagels, with salsa as a garnish.