Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I don't know why all the brown eggs come from Maine.

Team Clueless (that would be mine) was triumphant at The Liberal Cup's trivia night yesterday, and one of the questions that put us over the top was knowing that Maine is the nation's primary supplier of brown-shell eggs. If you buy a brown egg anywhere in the country, chances are pretty good that it came from a commercial poultry farm in Maine.

As you should know, brown eggs don't taste any different from white eggs; they're just laid by a different breed of bird. Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshires lay brown eggs, as do a hybrid of those breeds called the Production Red. The story I heard is that these breeds came to Maine on ships that had gone to China. Since the Chinese consider white a color of death and mourning, they prefer their eggs to be brown, and the New England ships that visited after the opening of Shanghai brought those eggs (and their layers) home with them.

But this doesn't explain why the Maine poultry farms decided to commit to brown egg-laying hens, or why those hens didn't show up in other seafaring communities in New England, the Southeast, or the Pacific Northwest. Why didn't brown eggs catch on in Seattle or Charleston?

The city of Portland voted last year to allow residents to keep chickens in their back yards, and a friend of mine already has a few. I don't think they're laying yet, but I keep forgetting to ask whether they'll lay brown eggs or white. It's funny that white eggs look exotic to me now.

Five Random Songs

"Van Lear Rose," Loretta Lynn. A sweet song about the courtship of the singer's parents.

"La La," Courtney Tidwell. This CD was a gift from a friend, and feels like springtime to me -- breezy, whimsical, green.

"Serves Me Right to Suffer," Jimmy Johnson. From The Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection, the perfect introduction to anyone who's never heard the blues.

"Rabbit in a Log," The Stanley Brothers. Lightning-fast bluegrass.

"All or Nothing," X. I'm hoping to see X in New York next week ... anyone want to come with me?


JIM LAMB said...

I was always told that brown eggs never caught on in the rest of the country was that in the 19th century, when industrial farming and transporting dairy and produce over some distance became possible, brown eggs usually arrived in New York and elsewhere in spoiled condition. Only in New England could the brown eggs arrive in a major market fresh.

By the time refrigeration became common, the food prejudice was too strong to overcome.

Our local commissary carries brown and white eggs for those who would rather starve than switch.

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about next year's blog:
how about the origins of commonly known expressions?

It came to me, because this morning I was thinking of the expression "... for the farm" -- is it "ripe" for the farm or am I confusing it with something else?! I tried googling it and came up with "bought the farm" and read where that came from, which led me to you, as usual.


AnswerGirl said...

Sue, that's so funny, because I was just thinking about next year's blog as well.

"For the farm..." that's not an expression I know. Do you mean "out to pasture"?

Anonymous said...

I had heard the same reason that Jim Lamb has


Anonymous said...

No, I meant the expression is ""something" for the farm" and I can't remember what the "something" is... like "ready for the farm", but that's not it, "ripe for the farm" doesn't sound right either... just can't remember the whole thing. Oh well. THAT'S why this should be next year's blog, to help ME remember!