239,000 ways to boil an egg

I AM so stupid I can’t even boil an egg.

My wife says.

The world is full of people who are so stupid they can’t boil an egg.

Have you ever met anyone who can…?

No…? That’s my point exactly.

It’s a common expression of scornful dismissal.

I don’t include, of course, those people who boil eggs until you can play golf with them. That’s easy.

Where I live the people who can’t boil an egg include my son’s partner, the next-door neighbour, my mother, and most of the checkout staff at our local supermarket.

And my wife.

But in her case it’s because the phone rang, the eggs were too old (or too new), or because she only has one pair of hands.

Her apart, then, I’ve never met anyone who can boil an egg. And that is clear proof that we’re all stupid and have been for hundreds of years, which is what I’ve always said anyway.

If you think I’m exaggerating just try the internet. If you type in “boil egg” it will come up with 239,000 answers!

None of which will work.

This is ridiculous. If you asked a nuclear physicist how to split an atom he would tell you precisely, and I bet there will be only one solution.

There’s even a scientist on the internet who has a mathematical formula for egg boiling, for God’s sake, and who adds: “One would need to note that the thermal properties of the white, yolk and shell are all different, and treat the egg as three concentric, ellipsoids with Dirichlet boundary-conditions at the water-shell interface…”

Then he says: “About four minutes 15 seconds.”

About? About!

And even that depends whether it’s straight out of the fridge or room temperature.

Any day now, I have been reading in the newspapers, a space probe is going to tell us all about Saturn. A remarkable feat of technology and engineering requiring the most brilliant minds in the world.

Bugger Saturn. I want to know how to boil an egg.

Indeed, I suspect the whole world would rather know how to boil an egg.

I mean, it’s very clever, for instance, in a sick sort of way, that we can kill several million people with one bomb in a nanosecond, but we can’t even fill a hot water bottle so it’s the right temperature! We can’t boil an egg precisely! We can’t cure the common cold! We can’t banish cockroaches!

I have a confession to make.

I am cheating. Because I, alone in the world, can boil an egg precisely.

I learned the secret from an old crone whom I subsequently poisoned (not with an egg) so I could make my fortune.

That hasn’t happened yet, however, and just in case the secret should die with me I am going to tell you. Now. Here. You might want to write this down…

Boil a saucepan of water. Take your eggs — it doesn’t matter how many — and bung them in it. Just so they’re covered; that’s fine.

Bring the water back to the boil and (this is the clever bit) every now and then remove an egg with a spoon and hold it away from the steam. It will go dry, quite suddenly. This is because the heat of the egg evaporates the water. When it does this after precisely eight seconds, your egg(s) are ready. It doesn’t matter whether they’re fresh or old, big or small. It works. Soft-boiled eggs to perfection, every time.

Galileo, Da Vinci, Einstein, Pearce…

I’ll get back to you about the hot water bottle before the winter’s over.