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Donkin's World: Six Chicken Oven And Circular Eggs

Richard Donkin contemplates circular fried eggs and high risk sandwiches.

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We had a new kitchen installed a little while back. The money wasn't earning much in the bank and everything is getting ever more expensive, including the cost of moving house, so we decided to buy some new cupboards, replacing the old cupboards.

Gill is taken with the new cooker which, so said the saleswoman, can fit six chickens in the side oven. When we shall ever cook six chickens simultaneously is beyond me but if the need arose, we could. I suppose that's comforting to know.

We had underfloor heating installed in the kitchen too. But that is so expensive to run we shall never use it. Still, we can tell people who come that we have it. We've had a new bathroom fitted too, or rather a shower room. That too has underfloor heating that we must never use. The best thing about it is the shower. The novelty of this shower is that it really works. Its predecessor was so sparse you had to move around to catch the drops.

But it is the six-chicken oven that is central to this article and the cooking adventures it has inspired in George, our 18-year-old. Since the cooker was installed he has learned to fry an egg and now he fries one almost every day.

Gill's latest acquisition is a yellow silicon circle that goes in the frying pan. It's an egg ring that ensures perfectly circular fried eggs if you crack the egg in to the ring. George likes this because he can now fry eggs that fit exactly between a bagel.

I pointed out the obvious flaw in this arrangement - that the bagel has a hole in the centre. This means that the only bits of the egg between the bread are the white parts, leaving the yolk perilously exposed. This makes for a high risk sandwich that I find far too worrying a proposition. George is unfazed, preparing and demolishing the fried egg bagel, headless of my warnings. It will all end in tears. Sooner or later the yolk will come unstuck. Bagels were never designed for eggs, at least not perfectly round fried eggs. Come to think of it, it's difficult to understand what bagels were designed for: curly sausages?

There is a story that says the bagel was devised as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, a Polish general, who saved Vienna from invading Turks in 1683. As he rode through the town in triumph, people clung to his stirrups, called breugels. The king asked a baker to make some bread in the shape of Sobieski's stirrups as a tribute. Nice story but unlikely since bagels predated the siege of Vienna.

Another story suggests the name comes from beigen, German for the verb to bend. I favour the story that the round hole enabled Russian and Polish bakers to mount the bread on poles so that they could conveniently carry their bread to market. Cooks point out, however, that a bagel without a hole doesn't cook properly in the middle. So how come we have T-cakes, or baps, rolls or whatever they're called in your locality?

Whatever its origins, one thing I would propose with some confidence is that the bagel was never intended to accommodate a fried egg. A boiled egg has possibilities but fried and scrambled eggs and omelets are all no-nos.

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