Monday, February 27, 2012

An Old Woman Fries Eggs

One of the great paintings by Velázquez is that of an old woman frying eggs while a young boy looks on and helps her.

The wonderful chiaroscuro is a joy to behold with the light appearing to come from the left. It was painted during his Seville period.

(Source of painting: Wikipedia.)

But what is she doing?

She is making huevos fritos con puntilla. These are eggs fried in hot olive oil where the oil is flicked around the edge of the egg to achieve a delicate lacey frill like that of a traje de Sevillana.

The evidence is the hot oil that she should be flicking over the edges of the egg whites with her wooden spoon. This is a reasonably high-risk procedure with the chance of hot droplets of oil splashing all over. Her right sleeve covers her hand to protect it but not her left. Most importantly, since this procedure can easily make the egg whites overcooked without the yolk having set, she seems instructing the boy to add a slug of olive oil to the earthenware cooking pot to cool down the oil.

She seems to be about to speak to him but his interest seems to have wandered. He just wants his abuela to make the damned eggs, and enough with the instruction already.

The eternal drama of youth and old age captured in a succint way!


Marcus said...

Fried eggs is a traditional Southern food as well.

Big family, lots of bacon and lots of grease, ready to start dropping in the eggs. The way I learned is the same technique you describe: "flicking" the grease over the eggs until the whites get all bubbly. Yolks don't really need to be done much...

Best. Eggs. Ever.

I make eggs like that fairly regular, although only cooking enough bacon for myself, wife and 2 yr old it's hard to get enough grease to really do it sometimes I just flip 'em. Or maybe add some leftover saved grease or even coconut oil.

Marcus said...

Also, if I had to guess, it looks more like poaching eggs than frying to me...just something missing. Maybe its the lack of a cast iron skillet?

ShockingSchadenfreude said...

It's definitely not poached.


[1] The flask of olive oil.
[2] The flicking of the oil over the white parts.
[3] The shallow earthenware vessel just perfect for frying but not for poaching.
[4] The wideness of the vessel. You'd expect the frugality to poach in much smaller vessels so as to use less oil.