We Indians have a prejudice against eggs. We regard them as “non-vegetarian.”

Eggs are as non-vegetarian as milk.

Milk deprives a calf.

The eggs on the market are unfertilised – no chick will emerge from them, no life is threatened or deprived.

Eggs are more vegetarian than milk. In a country with severe protein malnutrition, to despise eggs is to refuse life itself.

Do not transfer your prejudice to your children. Don’t deprive them of this unbeatable, totally perfect, protein.

Eat eggs!

The egg is meant to nourish the chick – and when there is no chick being formed inside, the egg retains all its nutrients unspent, waiting for a hungry human to crack the shell. Inside is the rich food meant for brain and muscle growth. Indeed, for every form of development.

Scaled down to size, the hen provides much more nutrition than a human mother does to her growing fetus. A great deal of neuromuscular development in humans takes place only after birth, in the first year of life. In birds, almost all development must be complete when the egg hatches.

Imagine, we have all this practically for free, delicious, and bursting with infinite culinary possibility. And whatever your quarrel with eggs, you must admit the packaging is irresistible. Show me a jewel, a perfume bottle, a sculpture as elegant, as tough, and as sensuously tactile as an egg.

Fabergé? Barbara Epworth? All the perfumes of sweet Araby?

Pah – imitation stuff.

Go buy yourself an egg. It is much more rewarding.

What’s inside an egg?

Two incredible compartments of nutrients.

The yolk has suffered much abuse over the past few decades, and has been condemned for its cholesterol content. Yes, it has a whopping 275 mg of cholesterol, but that doesn’t hurt us. Cholesterol is manufactured by the liver from the caloric excess in our diet – from the excess carbohydrates and fats we gulp down in every meal. That hurts us. That certainly damages every blood vessel in the body. Dietary cholesterol, on the other hand, contributes to less than 30% of the total cholesterol in the body.

Recent findings tell us that the response to increased cholesterol in the diet is completely unpredictable. Most such studies are flawed as they don’t take dietary excess of sugar and fat into account. The consensus, as of 2020, is that yolks shouldn’t be incriminated – and it is quite safe to enjoy your egg yolk.

It certainly is – two eggs a day are fine if you’re otherwise eating sensibly. Since most of us are not, it is better to err on the side of caution and stick with one whole egg a day till that paunch is no longer wobbly.

Why not avoid it altogether?

Because it is the most perfect food on the planet.

It contains: 2.7 gm of unsaturated fats, 1.5 gm of saturated fat, and a practically irreplaceable molecule – choline. This is an essential nutrient for the liver and muscle to function at optimum. Besides, it has a wallop of vitamin A, folate, and a bunch of trace elements.

The lovely yellow of yolk comes from xanthophyll pigments, zeaxanthine (orange red) and lutein (yellow). Indeed, yolks may span the entire spectrum of yellow from pale lemon to deep orange, and will be equally nutritive. The proteins in yolk are in the form of minuscule granules dispersed in a clear yellow fluid – we’ll return to this thought when we cook an egg.

Egg white has no fat in it. It is a gel full of protein. It is the gold standard for all proteins.

A teaspoonful of egg white has half a gram of pure protein. No other vegetarian food packs as much pure protein. Though albumin is the most talked about, egg white has 150 different proteins. Ovalbumin is a rich source for all the amino acids we need. The viscosity of egg white comes from another protein, ovomucin. Egg white contains four compounds that retard protein digestion. They are deactivated by heat, so a cooked egg is more digestible than a raw one.

Eggs contain only trace amounts of carbohydrates, but they are bursting with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Egg allergies are mainly to the white. Like all protein, egg albumin can be recognised as “non self” by the body, to produce an allergic reaction.

Eggs often produce a grimace – a bad sensory experience is instantly recalled. This can range from texture and taste to the most objectionable property – smell. There are two sorts of odours that turn people off eggs – and both can be avoided.

The first, the most common, is what’s usually described as “the smell of cooking egg.” Well, it isn’t. It is the smell of a charring egg. In common with all proteins, a bunch of odorants are released when denaturation continues to a high temperature. The Maillard Reaction topples over into charring, and this releases in its final stage, compounds called melanoidins and AGEs, which have these unpleasant “off” odours. This can be avoided by cooking eggs at lower temperatures, and for a shorter period of time.

The second objectionable odour is that of hydrogen sulfide – not the nauseating odour of frank hydrogen sulfide from a rotten egg – but a faint whiff suggestive of it even in fresh eggs, especially if hardboiled. Sometimes, this is worsened by the appearance of a green or blue ring between yellow and white. Don’t worry, the egg isn’t “bad,” the green ring is not poisonous. Egg white has sulfur-containing amino acids. As the egg heats up, the protein denatures and hydrogen sulfide is liberated from these sulfur groups. Yolk is rich in iron, and as the hydrogen sulfide meets the iron in the yolk, ferrous sulfide is deposited at the junction. That’s all it is, that sinister green ring, but why not avoid it by boiling the egg briefly and then sliding it into cold water? That will stop both the pong and the ring.

Excerpted with permission from Gastronama: The Indian Guide to Eating Right, Kalpish Ratna, Roli Books.