Wednesday, March 30, 2011

THE EGG AND EYE



I’ve been continuing to think about eggs, not least because in Sunday’s New York Post there was an anecdote about Liz Taylor when she was filming Butterfield 8.   The director Daniel Mann gave her two eggs in their shells and told her he wanted her to cook them in the next scene.  She held one in each hand and said, “But what do I do with them?”  In her late twenties at the time, her life experience hadn’t included cooking an egg. Butterfield 8 is also the movie in which Liz, or rather her character, brushes her teeth with whisky. 



But in fact I don’t think cooking eggs is the easiest thing in the world.  I remember seeing Albert Roux on TV (that's him below) and he said that when he interviewed potential new chefs he didn’t ask them to cook anything at all fancy, he asked them to make him a good fried egg.  Very few could.



Are eggs inherently sexy?  I think so.  When they’re in the shell they look hard and smooth and streamlined, when they’re cracked open, the albumen is simultaneously slimy and sensuous.  When they’re cooked well, the slime goes and the sensuousness stays.  Some people think they’re downright pornographic.


If evidence of the trickiness of egg cooking were required, consider this scene from Venus In Furs.


          Just then the door opened and an attractive stoutish blonde girls entered.  She had wise kindly eyes, was dressed in black silk, and brought us cold meat and eggs with our tea.  Severin took one look at the latter, and decapitated it with his knife.
          “Didn’t I tell you that I wanted them soft-boiled?” he cried with a violence that made the young woman tremble.
            “But my dear Sevtchu ..” she said timidly.
       “Sevtchu, nothing.” He yelled, “you are to obey, obey do you understand?” and he tore the kantchuk from its hook.


Well, any excuse. A footnote in my edition tells me a kantchuk is a long whip with a short handle, but you’d have guessed that anyway.  And you’d probably have to say it wasn’t just the eggs that were getting him upset. 


Of course “decapitating” eggs is pretty tame stuff compared with what Simone and the unnamed narrator get up to in Bataille’s The Story of the Eye.  First she develops a mania for “breaking eggs with her behind” and it pretty much goes downhill from there.  Lots of toilet antics are involved and at one point they have a fantasy about putting their mentally challenged pal Marcelle into a bath “half-filled with fresh eggs, and she would pee while crushing them.”


When I was growing up, the schoolyard wisdom was that you should never play with eggshells because they gave you warts.  Lord knows what writhing around in half a bath tub of them would have done.

Bataille never strikes me as absurd in quite the way de Sade does.  He and his characters are clearly very, very odd, but not exactly ridiculous.  Certainly Bataille seems to have much more fun with all this egg stuff than the reader does, but perhaps that's the way it always is with all truly pathological writing.


By contrast with Bataille the egg action in Ai No Corrida (released in the US as In the Realm of the Senses) seems positively normal and healthy.  It’s a simple insertion.  Soft boiled egg goes in, soft boiled egg pops out, the hero eats the egg in a cheerful fashion.  Good fun all round.

So, with Easter approaching, I bought myself some Cadbury’s Creme Eggs - the deal was buy 2 get 2 free.  They were one of the great chocolate treats of my childhood, and as with so many things from childhood they now seem much tamer and less exciting than I remember.  Didn’t the “yolk” used to be much more yellow?  Wasn’t the flavor more intense?  And didn't they used to be spelled "cream" rather than "creme"?


And above all, didn’t they used to be much, much bigger?  My memory is that they were pretty much the same size as a real egg, but if so then times have certainly changed.  These were absolutely minute; scarcely a mouthful.  It obviously doesn’t take much imagination to think of erotic uses for a Cadbury's egg, but if I’m honest I have to say I didn’t find them the slightest bit pornographic.  Perhaps I'm getting jaded.







4 comments:

  1. "Eier" or "eggs" is the German for testicles. Same in Russian, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Works in Spanish, too: huevos.

    I think they WERE bigger in the good ol' days.

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