Time for eggs! The sunshine hours are lengthening in anticipation of the upcoming vernal equinox, in which the hours of light and the hours of darkness will be poised in balance before the sun starts its crawl upwards to midsummer's apex. Longer hours of daylight flip a switch in the instinctual brains of our feathered friends, chickens both urban and rural among them, and the stingy-to-nonexistent egg-laying of the winter months suddenly turns into a bountiful flood of fresh, beautiful eggs for spring.
Last week, the chickens of Marin Sun Farms' home ranch in Inverness were chattering and clucking like a posse of glamour gals from Gossip Girl, crisscrossed by a handful of strutting roosters. Eve Love, who runs the kitchen at the company's butcher shop and cafe in Point Reyes Station, gave me a springtime gift of a half-dozen jumbo eggs in every color from palest buff to aqua-green. Every egg was double-yolked, a good-luck charm from their happy hens. Love is also starting her own flock of quail, with three hens in a pen, and along with the jumbo eggs she gave me three dainty speckled quail eggs. Seen side by side, they looked like that Annie Leibovitz picture of basketball star Wilt Chamberlain and jockey Willie Shoemaker.
Dainty and speckled, quail eggs, which can be found in specialty grocery stores as well in Asian markets, invariably put me in mind of the centerpiece of plovers' eggs decorating Sebastian's rooms in Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited.
Sebastian lived at Christ Church, high in Meadow Buildings. He was alone when I came in, peeling a plover's egg taken from the large nest of moss in the centre of the table.
'I've just counted them," he said. 'There were five each and two over, so I'm having the two. I'm unaccountably hungry to-day.'
The party assembled. Each as he came in made first for the plover's eggs, then noticed Sebastian and then myself with a polite lack of curiosity which seemed to say: We should not dream of being so offensive as to suggest that you never met us before.
'The first this year!" they said. 'Where did you get them?'
'Mummy sends them from Brideshead. They always lay early for her.' "
Quail eggs, front egg peeled and topped with paprika. Photo: Stephane von Stephane