Which came first: the chicken salad or the egg salad? It’s a question I’d never bothered to ask myself before this year.
Until recently, I don’t think I’ve ever much cared, since I’ve never considered myself much of a creamy, protein-based salad person: egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, you-name-it salad. Boring stuff, all of them.
So maybe I was wrong.
Thanks to my friends, the Rosas, I have suddenly and quite firmly changed my mind. I developed a mad crush on Coronation chicken salad, thanks to my friend Shannon’s mother when she made them for a charity tea party. More recently, my disdain for egg salad melted away amid the hungry cries of three members of the 10-and-under set. When their father, Craig, asked me if I could whip up some egg salad for the kids, I didn’t bat an eye, though I realized that I had never before in my life thought to make such a thing.
It was a simple affair: hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Uncomplicated, unfussy, and just the thing for three sometimes-fussy and anything-but-uncomplicated kids. And it was good– it left me wanting more.
A Moral Pickle
As my mind turned to thoughts of lunch for the week, I couldn’t make up my mind as to whether I should make a batch of chicken salad or egg salad. The annoying old chestnut “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” came to mind? Frankly, I had no idea. It’s a frustrating scientific/philosophic question that has no business complicating my luncheon plans. But I thought about it some more.
“Now who are the people that believe that chickens came first?” I thought. Creationists, of course. But then, I wondered, did the chickens of Eden actually lay eggs? What would be the purpose of that, apart from providing the occasional treat for Adam and Eve? Did the necessity of egg-laying or, at least, egg fertilization occur after The Fall? Were these chickens tainted with the mark of Original Sin along with the humans who caused all the trouble in the first place? These were questions I refused to answer on an empty stomach.
“And who falls into the egg-first camp?” I wondered. I figured it must be the Evolutionists or, if one wants to be less 19th Century about it, Scientists. If I were to make a sandwich to please those who believe that all life on earth began with single-celled organisms which gradually evolved into more complex organisms like, oh, chickens, it seemed to me that I might want to start with a simpler, earlier version of the animal. In other words, eggs.
I was a little overwhelmed by now and uncertain as to whether or not I should even bother with lunch at all– I was losing my appetite. “To hell with it,” I thought, “I’ll just make a salad with chicken and egg and make everybody happy.” It’s a Creative Evolution sort of thing. Of course, people have been trying to reconcile the two camps ever since Darwin came out with that book of his more than a century and a half ago. Some people are still trying. I’d like to think that, should the great minds belonging to each camp ever sit down together to try and hash things out, they might like to have this sandwich for lunch.
The Henri Bergson
As is typical of me, everything I knew about Henri Bergson, I learned from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So what if his theory of Creative Evolution doesn’t really cut the mustard with scientists anymore. And it certainly doesn’t give much in the way of time-of-day to the Creationists. But he coined the term which I borrowed, so he gets the sandwich. Besides, there was a certain élan vital– a natural creative impulse (in this case, the need to please myself by the avoidance of inner conflict)– that caused the evolution of this here sandwich.
When making this salad, I discovered, much to my own mayo-loving horror, that I had only about two tablespoons left of the stuff in my refrigerator. Hmm. And then it dawned on me: why on earth does one need to add mayonnaise to an egg salad, when it’s already, well, so eggy? What is mayonnaise anyhow but egg yolk, oil, acid, and a few other things? Necessity or, at least, an unwillingness to make an extra trip to the grocery store is the mother of culinary invention. And it’s excellent for its purpose, in case you were wondering. I might never add mayo again.
Oh, and the apple? Totally works, too. Though the apple isn’t specifically mentioned in Genesis Garden of Eden story, neither is celery, with is more traditionally used for crunch in egg and/or chicken salads. And, well, I’m just not a huge fan of celery. In terms of Western mythologies, the apple is the traditional trouble maker. Think Adam and Eve, think Judgement of Paris. It’s sexier and much, much tastier.
Makes about 6 sandwiches
6 large eggs, hard boiled
2 breasts of chicken or whatever other parts you prefer/have on hand, diced. I poached the bird pieces for this recipe, but bits of roasted chicken would work well, too. Just make sure to yield 1 1/2 to 2 cups.
1 apple finely diced, your preference. Something sweet and tart, like a Pink Lady will do nicely.
About 5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard
The juice and zest of one lemon (Meyer, in my case)
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)
A heavy pinch of salt (or two)
Capers (as many as you like)
Chopped chives and dill for garnish
Freshly ground pepper, to taste.
1. Peel and slice your hardboiled eggs lengthwise. If you haven’t the faintest idea as to how you might properly hard boil an egg, you are not alone. To hard boil eggs for this recipe, place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a pan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat and let sit for seven minutes. Run cold water over the eggs to cool down the hot water, then add ice to the pot to stop the cooking process entirely. Congratulations, you now hopefully ahve six hard boiled eggs.
2. Remove yolks from the whites of your eggs and place them in a medium-sized bowl. Chop egg whites and add to another, larger bowl.
3. Mash yolks with a fork and to them add olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt. No need to worry about emulsifying– everything will blend together. And there’s no need to worry about lumps– it’s an egg salad, for God’s sake.
4. Add diced chicken, apples, capers, and lemon zest to the chopped egg whites and toss together. Now add the egg yolk dressing, chives, dill, and ground pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined.
5. If you are not currently feeling rushed by the cries of cranky, hungry small children, you might want to let the salad sit in your refrigerator overnight. The results will charm the pants right off of you.
6. For best eating results, let salad warm for several minutes to shake the chill of refrigeration off its shoulder. So to speak, since it should be (hopefully) obvious to you that chopped salads do not, as a rule, have shoulders unless they have been molded to into the likeness of something with shoulders, in which case, it still wouldn’t have shoulders, but merely looks as though it might have them. I think you know what I mean.
7. Serve over lightly-dressed greens or between two slices of toasted, hearty bread, like pumpernickel (as shown above).