This illustration was created way back in 2019 with the products contained within an Art Snacks subscription box. I remember that the blue shade suggested the idea of a bird egg and that sparked the whole idea of a female figure with a nest for hair. It is an idea I still like so I might return to it as a subject at some point.
This coming week our seven year old will turn eight. As such he was allowed to pick the day trip destination yesterday, Easter Sunday, and he chose to go to Elmwood Park Zoo, an animal park not far from home for which we have an annual pass.
It was a bright, sunny and warm day so most of the animals were out in their enclosures and most of those were active. The boys enjoyed seeing the eagles. It is always a surprise when close up to see how bulky these birds are, majestic and powerful. We also saw the bighorn sheep and elk wandering around, saw the wolves lazing in the sun just like regular dogs and saw the massive bison clustered together in the same area of their enclosure that they always seem to hang out in. We also went to the barn where the boys saw and heard a barred owl hooting and fed the sheep and goats, something they always enjoy. We also finally saw the cougar sitting up. It was still scooched up in a corner of its enclosure as per always but for once we could see more than just its butt.
The kids always like the room that contains snakes, turtles and frogs and partly that is because it contains a darkened enclosure containing bats. They are fascinated by the bats and love seeing them swoop around and clamber hand over hand along ropes. There were also monkeys, including two who were holding hands, iguanas and sweet-faced little golden lion tamarins. My personal favourite creature in that area of the zoo park, however, was the South America tree porcupine. I love its peculiar face and its prehensile tail. Later on in our visit we also saw some North American porcupines. If anything, they were even more adorable. I asked my 9 year old if he thought we could pinch one and sneak it home in his hoodie. Just when I thought they could not get any more cute, the two porcupine nuzzled together as if kissing. Too sweet.
The boys were sad to discover that Princess the black jaguar was no longer in her enclosure. We knew she had cancer so I can only assume that Princess had finally succumbed to her illness. In her place, there were two jaguars of the patterned variety. One was sleeping but another was padding around as if looking for something. I guess perhaps dinner time was soon. Near them, there were two capybara who apparently wanted to cool off. I had never seen capybara swimming before so that was very cool to see. They were quite entertaining to watch as one clearly wanted a bit of peace and quiet but the other kept swimming after it, butting against it, splashing and thrashing in the water right next to it. Eventually they hauled themselves out of the pool and sat with their backs to each other as if in a huff.
There was also time for playing in various play areas and an ice cream break and also a turn on a little caterpillar train. We assumed that the latter would be considered far too lame for kids who had so recently been to the Florida theme parks but they wanted to have a go so they merrily did a few circuits.
After dinner at Chilli’s – a treat for the soon-t0-be birthday boy – we went home to roll the eggs the boys had decorated earlier in the week. The kids decided just to use the slope in our back garden but apparently it was not steep enough so they had to throw, chuck and lob their eggs more than roll them. They even made them tumble down the concrete steps in order to pulverise their eggs. Something about smashing things to smithereens really appeals to little boys so they had an utter blast.
We consume a lot of eggs in this house. They are a great option for a quick but nutritious meal, however they are cooked. We also use them in baking a lot, from the humble pancake to celebration cakes. For some time, therefore, I have been pondering the fact that eggs here are uniformly white. They have a chalky white look to them, opaque rather than a glowing alabaster that some eggs have, and the shells are thin and brittle. Sure, they look all nice in a box with their uniform complexion but the nature of the shell means they fracture too easily and are, as such, a bit of a pain to use. I am not sure whether this is to do with the breed of chickens being farmed here (do white chickens lay white eggs?) or if they have been selectively bred more generally so that chickens produce white eggs only. It’s great for dying eggs for Easter, I am sure, but I am unclear as to what other reasons there may be for these peely-wally eggs to be preferential.
Perhaps it is not the case across the whole of Pennsylvania or the United States but here my local supermarkets do not stock any free range eggs – or at least none of the cartons I see clearly promote the fact that they are laid by free range hens. That represented a bit of a culture shock to me since I have been buying free range eggs for my entire adult life and, indeed, I cannot even remember the last time I saw a batch of battery eggs for sale in Britain. Battery farms still exist in Britain for the production of chickens for the meat market but I assume purchasing power led the way some time ago for farmers to produce free range eggs – at least for the domestic rather than food processing market. I can absolutely tell the difference too: with some of the eggs I have bought here, the albumen spits a lot when being fried because of the water content and the yolk is thinner rather than thick, sticky and golden.
Definitely farming and processing practices differ between Britain and America when it comes to egg production. Here, eggs are kept in the refrigerated section of the supermarket whereas back home in Scotland I would pluck them off open shelves. What’s annoying to me personally about that is that it means I have to then store the eggs in the fridge too which was not the case in Scotland because the uniform temperature required to store them was just room temperature. Indeed, it is actually an EU regulation that requires this because fluctuations in temperature – such as happens when refrigerated eggs are transported in a car and warm up just to be plopped back in a fridge – promote the growth of bacteria. This becomes critical because, unlike British hens, most American hens are not vaccinated against salmonella, hence the need for refrigeration. As a bit of an aside, American eggs are also washed and dried before they are packed for sale. This is done for hygiene purposes. The same motive is true in the European Union but, instead of washing and drying them, there the edict is that they should be left as they are since the assumption is that farmers should be operating at a high standard of cleanliness anyway and the natural cuticle that layers an egg when it is laid is believed to create an effective barrier between the environment and the interior of the shell. It was not unusual, therefore, to open a box of free range eggs in Scotland and find tiny feathers or bits of chicken poop still stuck to the eggs. I would simply wash them thoroughly just prior to cracking them.
So my note to self is that I need to educate myself as to American food labelling so that I can perhaps identify some free range, humanely reared and maybe even organic chicken eggs in the supermarket so that I can ensure I am buying the best possible eggs. Even if they are all a boringly uniform white. It is all these little things – the way I could instantly identify food labelling in Scotland but don’t have the foggiest here – that remind me of my “fresh immigrant” status. I have so much to learn, so much, if even buying a humble egg can flummox me.