on doing one’s duty …



Whenever I hear of duty and the honour bestowed on those who, when called to it, perform it without question, I am whisked back to a much earlier time when, early each morning, I was to be found perched on a lavatory in a crumbling country house deep in the Worcestershire countryside. Our raw boned Scottish headmaster, a ringer for Thring in Ronald Searle’s “Molesworth”, was of the belief that the first thing opened each morning by a child in his charge should be his bowels. This quotidian dump was known as “Doing one’s Duty” and to ensure that evacuation had indeed occurred, a burly matron stood outside the lavatory door, her trained ear cocked to confirm the expected sounds that would signal success in order that a tick might be placed, next to the current incumbent’s name, in the impressive Duty Register that lay open upon her heroic folded arms. Failure, as with the Light Brigade, was inconceivable which resulted in most of the boys being able to mimic the sounds of various styles of defecation in the way that freer children can imitate bird song.  Ours was an ear for a turd song. It was eggs that moved me into that train of thought this morning or rather the lack of them at that time of my life. Nothing that bound was served in the refectory. It was a system that produced alumni with highly educated bowels together with a skill that would have made them a fortune in the music halls, if they had still existed, or on “Britain’s got Talent”, which had yet to be created.

Notwithstanding Thring’s admonition on eggs and all things eggy, eggs and I have become well acquainted without them making me any less dutiful than I was in my adolescence. Moreover, with the arrival of summer they become essential ingredients for summer cooking and eating. Without them we would be bereft of mayonnaise, aioli, oeufs mayonnaise, cheese or crab  soufflés, meringues, oeufs mollets, salade Nicoise, eggs with tarragon in aspic and, a favourite of mine, thin cold omelettes such as the omelette aux fines herbes in the picture. This was a truly summer dish as the omelette was made with the egg yolks left over from making meringues, which were eaten with a pile of raspberries and thick, yellow creme fraiche. A very delicious way to enjoy these small, cold omelettes is to make five or six of them, each slightly different …let us say that two may be flavoured with Parmesan, two with fresh tomatoes and two with courgettes..and then pile them on top of one another to make a layered omelette cake. Cut slices as you would a cake…..Caroline Conran showed me this idea many years ago and it has never failed to please.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in 2015, Caroline Conran, Childhood memories, Cookery Writers, Cooking, creme fraiche, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, Eggs, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Herbs and Spices, meringues, omelette, Photography, raspberries, Uncategorized, Writing, yolks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to on doing one’s duty …

  1. Mad Dog says:

    Your matron and headmaster are almost beyond belief, though some of their ilk did far worse back then.
    That’s a beautiful omelet – I may have to follow your suggestion and cook myself an omelet layer cake 😉
    Having an E for B doesn’t quite mean the same thing in this day and age, especially if one is at Glastonbury!

  2. Vicki says:

    Love the sound of the omelette cake. Very clever.

    …and love your image of the egg sitting in the cup. Only a brilliant food photographer could make such a simple subject look so damn good. Still remember that wonderful shot of the spoon on a simple background you shared with us.

  3. Simply superb – from the story to the photos!

  4. EGGS I have and very regular bowels just in case you should be hovering outside my door. (How we would LOVE to have that book now – all those names – all those ticks. I do not want to know what happened if there was a cross). This is a stunning egg omelette idea, I shall try it today for my deeply and thoroughly enjoyable solitary lunch. We are always looking for ways to eat eggs.. c

    • Solitary lunches are good…no one to disappoint…I’m very envious of the quality of eggs you must have with all your chooks, ducks and god knows what. I still can’t believe that Aussies and ( hope I’m right..forgive me if not) Kiwis use the word chooks for chickens. I thought it was a diminutive or a slang word, but no, apparently chooks is chicken:)

  5. Roger, I may have told you this story, but I never liked eggs. My mother thought they were good for me, and she force-fed them to me as a baby. She’d come back thirty minutes later and still find egg in my mouth, for I would refuse to swallow. I only learned to appreciate a good egg when I went to Paris in 2003. We wandered into a non-touristy restaurant near the Senate, and I ordered lentils and ham and poached egg, thinking I would remove the egg rather than ask the server to leave it off and be a demanding American. I’m so glad it burst when I tried to move it to the side, and I was forced to try a dish that has become one of my favorites. 🙂

  6. Now there’s a couple of interesting concepts – an enforced morning poo and a cold omelet. The omelet looks like yum 😁

  7. Sue says:

    That story was just unbelievable…poor kids of yesteryear, eh? Your omelette cake sounds most interesting….

  8. Life without eggs would be very sad (and all functioning very well here thanks!). God that Matron….how grim 😦 I make an omelette cake for veggie friends – it looks great doesn’t it and always goes down well! Loved the shots, simply beautiful and beautifully simple.

  9. Eha says:

    Actually my childhood memory of eggs leads me to ‘gogel-mogel’ which most Estonian children received as a tonic once a day [oh we got a tablespoon of cod liver oil as well: that lead to a scrunchy face!] – anyways a raw egg yolk was whipped up with a spoonful of sugar and a healthy slurp of cognac: did taste rather good 🙂 !! And the omelette cake is oft made in Eastern Europe, especially Austro/Hungary with chocolate sauce twixt the layers, being set alight with cognac upon serving!! Rather yum also . . .

    • That cake sounds fantastic and I like the liberal use of cognac, very much. As the French can’t sell Cognac to the French people for love or money they should be looking to the Austro/Hungarian market. The supermarkets here have virtually no cognac but every sort of whiskey that you can imagine pack the shelves. 🙂

  10. Eha says:

    What! Are you really telling me the French don’t appreciate one of the finest things they actually did put on the planet? Even the Armagnac version . . . ? Delightful straight, lovely and warming in both coffee and tea [no ‘funny’ comments please: I don’t take milk and rarely sugar!!]

    • It’s true…Cognac seems to be limited to restaurants …if it wasn’t for American DJ’s, Chinese businessmen and Russian gangsters, the industry would be on its knees. Whiskey, beer and port seem to be the nation’s favourite..very odd:)

  11. Oh the horror! Not the food of course. 😉

  12. Sally says:

    Loved the Down wiv school books and Ronald Searle’s wonderful illustrations…. but then I didn’t have to experience that kind of regime in any other way but through their pages. Not allowed eggs as a school boy….a deprived childhood indeed.

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