OM138 - Egg Cracking Machines

Ken’s egg cracking skills (OM138)

Ken is quite confident, perhaps overconfident, about his egg cracking skills. He always does the one hand crack that he used to see TV chefs do because he was always very impressed by that, but it is so much harder to crack an egg that way and it increases the odds of getting a little shell in the egg. Ken took Home Ec and he does all the things you are supposed to do like cracking each egg into a separate bowl first in case you get a bad one.

Mindy Jennings does the majority of the cooking and baking, and she is going to listen to this and say that Ken is underselling whatever he is going to say because she does more or less all the cooking. The one thing that Ken is qualified to cook besides grilling is breakfast food. Making breakfast food often means cracking eggs for pancake batter or omelettes and Ken does probably more egg cracking than many other culinary skills.

Ken is not one of these dads with a funny apron and he generally sticks to burgers and dogs because he doesn’t like to be challenged. Maybe he will do chicken thighs, but steaks and fish make him a little nervous. John is not very good at cooking steaks and it shames him to reveal (see RW78). His problem is that he overcooks everything.

Ken can do a riffle shuffle of a deck of cards and he can do the bridge thing, but you are not supposed to. Nobody in Las Vegas ever does it because it is harder on the cards. Half of shuffling is just impressing kids. Ken can’t do a good fan, he never did close-up magic or things like that, but that is to his credit. For addressing a raw egg with a bowl you have to have a similar confidence than for addressing a deck of cards. It is how Ken addresses eggs on Twitter, basically! Somebody today tweeted at Ken asking if he accepts constructive criticism and Ken’s answer was to mute them quickly before they realized it.

John being short-order cook at The Off Ramp (OM138)

One of John's earlier jobs was being the short order cook at The Off Ramp during the Grunge years, which is eggs all the time. John pioneered Hash After The Bash, the famous Grunge-era food style midnight garbage pile. It was a potato-based hash, not hashish, and scrambled eggs were a component of it. People from all across town would all show up at The Off Ramp at 1am and for a very small amount of money you could get a big plate of eggs and carbohydrates. It was all in big food service trays and everybody was eating it out of a trough like in medieval times.

It was at a time in Seattle when the average person under the age of 30 went to bed at 6am and only because the cheap white powder drugs had failed to keep them going through to the next day. John started doing Hash After The Bash because the restaurant was open until 2am and at 1am, as everybody else was starting to clean up and go home, he would get 25 short orders for eggs prepared 25 different ways. The restaurant would fill up with drunks and everybody would have their own kind of eggs they wanted. Cooking all those eggs right all at once is a challenge.

John had to frantically make all these eggs, the server would plop them down in front of these guys and when John went out to look at them, he saw a bunch of long-haired Grungers passing out in their chair and they wouldn’t have noticed if it had been Tofu or Soylent because most of them just fell asleep with their face in the food. John was so offended! Why was he working his butt off making these great eggs for these dingelings? He decided to make 200 eggs in a trough and it was a huge part of the scene.

During that period John was very good at cracking eggs. He was cracking them one-handedly by the dozens. He could flip eggs in the pan, he was doing all this cookie stuff, he had a deep fryer going on over here and he had burgers up and he was cooking everything. In the end John didn’t like the lifestyle because it is too hard on your body and you are working while everybody else is having a smoke break. You get a throwing arm and carpal tunnel from the spatula work. John wanted to be a musician, not a cook. Those were rough times and people were passing out in his food.

Ken living close to Beth’s Café (OM138)

Ken lives close to Beth’s Café, which is famous for their 12-egg omelette, which is a massive undertaking. His son was down there the other day, but did not get the 12-egg omelette. Back in the 1990s it was open all night and the cooks at Beth’s could all smoke while cooking. John distinctly remembers one cook who smoked until the ash was 4 inches long. She got the cigarette in her mouth, hanging over the grill, she got six 12-egg omelettes on there and the ash was just dangling. It was maddening that she wouldn’t ash this cigarette in an ash tray! John would sit there at the bar, waiting for this ash to fall in the eggs, but it never did, not that he ever saw! If you got an omelette at Beth’s and there was a little spot of blood in it, that would be the least of your worries. It was incredible, because everything smelled like cigarettes back then!

Different ways to have your eggs (OM138)

Ken’s diner dream is always a perfectly cooked over-medium-fried egg, where it is not runny enough to ooze out over the plate, but also not hard enough to be dry, and he has never actually gotten one, because a short-order cook is doing 20 eggs at once and there is no way he can time it to the exact 15 seconds when it is neither too runny or too dry.

You can crack 50 eggs into a bowl and then you got egg mix sitting there waiting to be poured out for scrambled eggs, but if you are doing fried eggs, you have to hand-crack those dummies over the grill. Ken likes scrambled almost as well and he should order those instead because it would make the world net-happier. It is generally less work for a cook. That was how John felt: "Look, I can make eggs for you two ways: I can fry them, in which case they are going to come out fried and you don’t get to stipulate how you want your yolk, or I can scramble it!"

Ken likes his scrambled eggs wet, but not too wet. His son always gets poached eggs. John hardly ever cooked a poached egg. You will have to poach them to order and you don’t keep a pot of clean water boiling just in case somebody orders a poached egg, so you have to boil water first. Ken's son gets turned down a lot, which makes Ken think that this is a hard egg to make. Come on, kid! What did you do? Did you google ”weird ways to make eggs”? Did you read Catcher in the Rye and it said something about a poached egg? Get out of here!

John just recently developed a taste for wetter scrambled eggs because he was cooking for his uncle Jack who is 93 years old and he likes his scrambled eggs wet. John realized they are pretty darn good that way! He had always been a little squeamish about them because you don’t like the word ”wet” when it comes to food. ”Moist” maybe, although people hate the word moist. Dry scrambled eggs are no better, that is real prison food!

Eggs in real prison food are not real eggs at all, but they are powdered eggs, which are dehydrated eggs. If you want real eggs that had just been cracked and cooked at McDonalds, you have to get a McMuffin, which is the only thing they serve that just came out of a shell. The eggs in the burrito or any other breakfast sandwich is a mix that does have egg in it in addition to all the other stuff it has. In the process of processing eggs there are lots of different gradations of eggs.

Ken buying Grade B eggs for the soup kitchen (OM138)

Ken just recently bought grade B eggs for the first time. He was at a soup kitchen with his wife and kids, helping the poor, as he often does, and they were making up a tray of whatever it was this Lutheran church was serving for breakfast the next day, peeling potatoes and what not. It was cross-denominational helpfulness because Ken is nothing if not ecumenical. He goes through the phone book, finds one house of worship of each denomination and he goes help them peel potatoes.

The kids were bored with what they were doing and Mindy suggested to make a zucchini bread. They had already cracked the eggs when the lady who runs the kitchen came in and said that they would have needed these eggs tomorrow to make something else. Ken got dispatched to the Kroger QFC to get another thing of eggs and he assumed the eggs he was buying were going to go into the zucchini bread.

They had grade B eggs which Ken had never seen before and he got those because who cares what goes in homeless zucchini bread! Ken really is a saint and he could save $0.11! He grabbed the grade B-eggs and ran back to the soup kitchen, but it turned out they had used the pre-existing eggs in the zucchini bread and now the homeless were going to get served grade B-eggs in whatever their morning omelette or frittata would be.

Grade B eggs will be used in processed food or food manufacturing. They are not dodgy, but as an egg ages, the yolk becomes less distinct from the white and gets more watery. You can tell all this by candling, which is an ancient process of holding an egg up to a candle to see what is inside. It is used to determine whether the egg is fertilized if you are trying to raise chickens or if the egg is fertilized if you are not trying to raise chickens. They candle eggs as a quality control. Eggs are graded by their weight, so if you get a carton of extra large eggs it isn’t that the shells are that much bigger, but those are the heavier eggs and they are denser.

Chicken breading (OM138)

The health of the chicken determines a lot about the constitution and health of the egg and it varies a lot by who is raising them. Egg-laying chickens are bread for that purpose. A natural chicken will lay 10-15 eggs a year because they are just laying eggs to have babies (John sings ”You make me feel like a natural chicken”), but chicken are bread to lay eggs. Chicken in egg-laying facilities are not exposed to natural daylight, but the light is controlled to make them think it is always the longest day of the year with a short and hot summer night. Because of the industrialization of chicken breading, 70% of the avian biomass on the planet is chicken.

We have plump-ified our chickens and any wild chicken off the streets of Kihei, Maui or Road Town, Tortola don’t have any meat on them because they are scroungy little birds that are much more closely related to the jungle fowl of ancient times. The chickens that are raised to be broilers, the meat chickens rather than egg chickens, have been genetically bread to have so much breast meat that they often cannot stand because their little skeletons can’t support the extra weight.

John did not get into this business to be Mr. Debunk the Chicken Industry, because there are 300 million egg-laying hens in the United States and there are 50 billion chickens raised for food in the US. Until World War II most chicken husbandry was on a very small localized scale where people had chickens just like the mustache waxed hipsters of Portland, Oregon.

The rooster on John’s street is just over there! His neighbors keep those chickens for eggs and maybe they eat them, but they keep that rooster for God knows what reason and John wants to throttle him every morning. Sometimes Ken’s neighbors have chickens and will find out later that one of them was a rooster, it seems that it isn’t fool proof for a long time.

Shelf-stable eggs in other countries (OM138)

There is a lot of egg chauvinism in the world because America decided that in order to mass-produce eggs and to avoid disease they needed to sterilize them while most of the world including Europe recognizes that eggs come pre-coated with an active coating by their mothers. If you wash it off the eggs will need to be refrigerated, but if you don’t wash the egg it is protected by its native state and it is counter safe and won't spoil. The shell is not permeable because of this natural coating on the egg. The lesson is to not wash your babies!

If you are in a bar in Denmark and want to get into a conversation about what nation is better, Denmark or the United States, anyone in Denmark will take up that challenge with you, any drunk in the country, and they will eventually bring up pasteurization of milk and egg. Their milk is shelf stable, too! People in the United States are also not allowed to eat good cheese for the same reason.

This is a very specific story that comes from the many fights John has had in European bars because everybody wants to sidle up and go ”You know, America is not so good!” John fights all the time about food safety (see FS108) and it is very hard to defend America. There are a lot of reasons why America is bad: Their beer doesn’t take like raspberries and there is a lot of global adventuring with guns that don’t work very well.

John on the JoCo Cruise 2019 (OM138)

John had just been on the JoCoCruise, a lengthy Caribbean cruise, for his 8th year. He is a plank holder, as they say in the Navy, which is when you crew a ship on its maiden voyage. He was struck by the fact that at any hour of the day he could call room service and order an omelette perfectly prepared. The boat had 2200 guests and 700+ crew people and he wondered how this floating city is able to produce that many presumably equally perfect omelettes day in and day out.

Prior to the cruise John was staying at a fancy hotel that had an omelette station in the morning and John watched the omelette-making-man dip into his bucket of eggs and he ladled out enough pre-scrambled eggs to make John’s omelette. That bucket of eggs would require that someone’s job in this hotel would be to sit in the back and crack eggs into a bucket.

John realized that the number of cooked eggs they were producing on that cruise ship more or less precluded that there would be staff people who’s only job it was to crack eggs, even though cruise ships notoriously have very stratified racial and cultural class systems. Do not reflect on the fact that the officer cast is all from the Netherlands or the UK, the food service staff is all from the Philippines or the Ukraine and everyone else is from Bali. You would need 20 people sitting down in the bowels of the ship cracking eggs all day and night in order to accommodate this demand.

Hanging jocular diplomas on the wall (OM138)

At the end of the cruise they slipped a suitable-for-framing plaque of all the ship’s great accomplishments under John’s door. They are proud of their ship! John was considering framing it, because his last girlfriend (Millennial Girlfriend) had a lot of fancy diplomas. She wanted to buy a house together and John didn’t even have a college diploma that he knew of, he only had that envelope that he refused to open (see RL270).

John was going to put all his ”He ate the pigs trough at Farrell’s" and ”Certificate of appreciation award” in frames and insist that they be hung next to her Ivy League degrees. It is only funny in aggregate if you have 14 things and you put them up like at your psychiatrist’s office. John’s psychiatrist has 15 diplomas and they are all the same, saying like ”Good Citizenship Award at Seattle Pacific University”

The little plaque from the cruise ship also said ”Number of eggs used: 22.000”, which is on there a little jocular because it is an impressive figure. 22.000 eggs on a 7-day trip is just one per human per day, but how do you crack 3000 eggs a day? That is a lot of work!

Egg cracking machines (OM138)

There have been tremendous development in the egg cracking sciences and there is a lot of competition in the design, manufacture and sales of industrial egg cracking machines. Ken loves a Rube Goldberg device and in an industrial egg cracking machine there is a lot of opportunity for that. They continue to talk about how egg cracking machines work. The Optibreaker Compact 12 claims to be able to break 135.000 per hour, so 22.000 eggs per week for the Holland America Oosterdam doesn't even make it sweat a bit.

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