Monday, May 7, 2012

"Stone Age" Eggs

This evening for dinner, I tried one of the recipes from A Culinary Journey Through Time--what the book calls "mushroom omelette."  

The book indicates that the ingredients and techniques for this one would have been available in Europe in the Stone Age. Since the book also says that "poultry" (presumably meaning domesticated birds) first came to Northern Europe early in its Iron Age, I assume that the eggs referenced in the recipe would, in the Stone Age, have been eggs stolen from the nests of wild birds.  Not having any of those, I used chicken eggs.

The other two ingredients specified in the recipe are "a handful of mushrooms" and fresh thyme.  I figure both would have been found growing wild, in the Stone Age, and I suspect that the white morels they farm in the county where I live are not much like the wild mushrooms of northern Europe, but they are what I have available.  The thyme I used came from Colombia, by way of my local supermarket.  

The recipe calls for chopping the mushrooms and frying them first, on a "greased, heated stone slab."  The only stone slab I have is a pizza stone, and I suspect it would not survive being placed directly on the burner of my gas range.  So I substituted a no-stick skillet.  At least the range emits a flame, which is how a Stone Age cook would have heated a stone slab.

The recipe does not specify what type of fat to use to grease the slab.  I suspect animal fat would have been used in the Stone Age.   But butter is what I have on hand, so that's what I used.

Next, the thyme was to be whisked into the eggs, and the eggs poured over the mushrooms on the hot stone.  Thyme has little tiny leaves on somewhat woody stalks, so chopping it really wasn't necessary.  I simply pulled leaves off and threw them in the eggs until I felt there were enough thyme leaves in there, and whisked the eggs into a yellow mass.  When the mushrooms in my pan smelled as though they were done, I poured the eggs over them.  

Then I turned the stove off, and left the eggs alone until they were no longer runny or translucent.  At that point, I slid the cooked eggy mass onto a plate.  

The result was very, very tasty.  It was very good even though I added no flavorings other than thyme--no salt, no black pepper (except whatever salt was in the butter itself).   Next time, I'll use animal fat, or at least unsalted butter, to try to get a taste closer to what my ancestors might have enjoyed in the Stone Age. 

Another variation I'd like to try is wild onion.  I do have wild onions growing on my property, and it would be interesting to find out how mincing one--leaves, bulb, and all--and adding it to the eggs would taste. 

But my next experiment will likely involve leeks, since the book has two recipes featuring leeks that I'd like to try, and my husband really likes them.


  1. I'm not sure "it would have been possible to cook this in the stone age" is anywhere near the same as "stone age humans enjoyed mushroom omelettes fried in animal fat."

    I mean, I'm sure it's a good omelette, but how sophisticated were stone age cooks? Did they experiment with herbs? Did they look for complementary flavors when combining ingredients on their big stone skillets? Did they have big stone skillets?

    1. Hi, Howard! Thanks for stopping by.

      Re" the sophistication of Stone Age cooks, See my blog post on the cookbook here, where I discuss the authors' approach to their subject matter.

      Basically, the authors assume that if the archaeology shows that certain foods were available to Northern Europe in the Stone Age, and that certain techniques could have been used, they've assumed that such a recipe was possible in that period.

      As for the tools you could heat a stone with a flat top in a fire, and cook eggs on that. I don't personally know of archaeological evidence for such a practice, but the authors must, since they write about the use of such a practice in the book as though there is archaeological evidence for it.

      Indeed, in some parts of Europe, the sun alone might heat a flat stone enough to at least cook eggs on it in the summertime. The authors characterize this "omelette" as a summer recipe, perhaps partly for that reason (though the mating and breeding practices of European bird life are probably also relevant).

      In addition, I can easily see how a person could "whisk" eggs in a bowl with a bundle of suitably sized and textured twigs. (If I hadn't been in a bit of a hurry for dinner, I might have gone outside and looked for some.) They had bowls by the New Stone Age at least.

      Now, I suppose it would take longer to cook eggs on a heated rock than it does to cook them in a skillet on a gas range. However, eggs are pretty easy to cook, and a Stone Age cook might well have been willing to invest considerable time for an peak eating experience.

      In any event, we'll never get further than such deductions as to what cooking techniques Stone Age cooks might have used. After all, it's not as though they wrote their own cookbooks, is it?

  2. Many variations are needed to replicate some recipes...

    I think most people will be hard pressed to find a suitable stone slab, even if they have an open fire range in their backyard, like I do; nevertheless, the flavor does change a lot from the usual recipes, so it's still fulfilling to do this excercise.

    1. I think you're correct on both counts. Welcome to my blog!

  3. Now I have an urge to try an experiment of cooking eggs on a flat stone, and see how much runs off, and how much omelette is left!
    Vandy/Bera in DARC

  4. Hi, Vandy, welcome!

    I bet how much omelette is left depends on how well you grease the stone, and on how porous the stone is. I'd prefer to use something like slate for this purpose myself. If you do try it, please come back and let me know how it goes!