The Simple Things
Home style Egg-timers
THE EGG- TIMER
How many minutes do you give your boiled eggs? Are you a three-minute, slightly-runny sort of person? Or a good-five-minutes-to-ensure-it’s cooked type? Perhaps you are like Heston Blumenthal who simply brings a pan of water to the boil, adds an egg or two, then turns off the heat and leaves for six minutes.
Whichever type you are, timing is key, and what better device to measure it than an egg-timer?
Unlike its modern digital counterparts, the egg-timer is pure analog, needing only the hand of a human to upend it and get it started. No insistent beeping or flashing lights with this fellow – just a gentle trickle of sand until it comes to a stop. You could even label it ‘mindful’: you have to keep an eye on it; it makes you pay attention.
And unlike digital devices, it is a lovely thing to have around. Curvaceous like a screen goddess with a nipped-in waist and ample proportions, it is made of two simple and satisfying components: glass and sand. Its simplicity and made-for-- purpose design means that it has remained unchanged since its invention way back in Ancient Greece. Its early incarnation was as an hourglass – an hour being the length of time it measured – and it came into its own in the 14th century during the days of European maritime exploration. Unaffected by the motion of a ship, it proved a reliable and accurate timepiece and helped seamen determine longitude with reasonable accuracy. (A ship’s page was employed to turn it over and record timings in the ship’s log.)
With the arrival of mechanical timepieces, the hourglass became sidelined. Until, that is, it found other purposes: in churches (timing sermons); industry (measuring shifts) and, most enduringly, in the kitchen. Which brings us back to breakfast.
How long the sand takes to flow from the upper bulb to the lower depends on the width of the neck and the coarseness of the sand. There are timers to suit a variety of tasks, taking from three minutes up to one hour. One for everyone’s boiled egg preference, in other words.
“It is curvaceous, like a screen goddess with a nipped-in waist”