The blind egg taste test

| 26 Feb 2013 | 12:50

Of course our eggs, collected warm from the vents of our free-range chickens, taste better than store bought. How cynical do you have to be to ask? But cynics abound, and for their sake, there was no harm in proving it.

One weekend morning, husband Joe presented, in addition to an omelet on each of our plates, a mini omelet made with a store bought egg. It happened to be one of the best eggs on offer at ShopRite: Nellie’s Nest are big, brown, and cage-free. So we were satisfied to observe that the resulting omelet looked washed out in comparison to the sunshiny hue of the omelets our chickens’ eggs had produced.

Joe closed his eyes and I fed him a bite of the Nellie’s omelet. He swirled orange juice in his mouth to cleanse the palate. Then I speared him a piece of his own omelet. Details are blurry as to exactly what happened next, but the salient and irrevocable fact was he chose Nellie’s as the better of the two. Oh yeah, he said something about having gotten a big taste of onion along with the Nellie’s omelet that might have messed him up.

I closed my eyes. Bite number one was fluffy, pleasantly sponge-like. Bite number two delivered a fleshy rectangle of onion, which probably meant this was the imposter since the onion had thrown Joe. Yummy, yes, but not as fluffy. I opened my eyes, dabbed my lips with a napkin and pronounced: number one.

Joe shook his head. Wrong. By the end of breakfast, since the dishes we were using were from Italy and too nice to be flung against the wall, we had decided the only thing to do was laugh about it. This was clearly bad science. The sample size was so small and the eggs were disguised by having been seasoned and cooked. We’d re-do the experiment, with more test subjects and a minimum of meddling by the chef. It would be egg versus egg, mano a mano.

We’d do it at the Straus News office, which publishes 14 newspapers in addition to Dirt. Two colleagues agreed to bring in camping stoves. Joe, who works from home, consented to come in to chef during his lunch break. A memo went out, subject line: Blind egg taste test, we need YOU. The next day we packed eggs, two pans, olive oil and two bandanas to use as blindfolds.

When the first of our subjects filed into the lunchroom, Joe adjusted the propane flames and started pumping out plates of single scrambled eggs. Two by two we tied handkerchiefs over their eyes, helped them into chairs like you’d do with your grandma, placed a plated scrambled egg in front of each, and guided the hand that held a fork to the egg.

Nope, you’re not done, you’ve still got a bite over there. You don’t have to finish it if you don’t want. You do want, okay, move your fork closer to you. There you go. Whoops, you dropped it down your shirt.

It was a laborious process, but the results were encouraging. The first four subjects all preferred farm fresh eggs. Fresher flavor, said one. Richer, said another.

But science is nobody’s mistress. Except maybe if you’re the one funding the study. But I was so confident our eggs were superior that skewing the results hadn’t even crossed my mind.

After polishing off both plates, Juan and Alexis, an editor, agreed on two counts. First, they could tell that the first egg was the store bought. Second, they preferred the store bought. What? I found myself pumping them for information, whereas earlier subjects had departed with a nod and a “thank you.” Why?

The second egg seemed slightly overcooked, Juan conceded. Joe winced. “Just slightly. But both were very good,” Juan said, and fled.

The next two subjects also preferred the store bought and were curtly dismissed. This experiment was going to the dogs. The eggs were getting cold. There was the inevitable human error factor that comes into play when cooking for 11 over propane camping stoves in an office.

But with a large enough sample size, such glitches might iron themselves out. Indeed, although the eggs were now lukewarm, the next two subjects claimed they could taste a distinct difference. One thought the store bought tasted metallic. Both preferred the farm fresh.

I was last up. It was just me, two plates of cold eggs, and a handful of malingerers. Egg A was springy and spongy. Egg B, less springy. I declared A “way better.”

Before I ripped my blindfold off I knew what I had done. I had been taken by the texture, again. Perhaps because store bought eggs have more white and less yolk, they’re fluffier. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

The important thing is that farm fresh won the taste test. They may have won 6-5, but in marketing lingo that translates to: A blind taste test confirms that farm fresh eggs taste better!