Not Saussure

September 23, 2006

Paxo on the monarchy and how to boil an egg

Filed under: Books, Food — notsaussure @ 6:03 pm

From Stuart Jeffries in The Groan:

My favourite passage [in Paxo’s forthcoming On Royalty, about to be serialised in The Guardian] has Paxman finding the Sandringham bookshelves well stocked with Dick Francis, Wodehouse and Frederick Forsyth and a leather-bound edition of sixth-century philosopher Boethius used as an unopenable bookend. Isn’t that a typical sneer from Paxo the intellectual. “Not at all. l don’t consider myself an intellectual.”

Seems eminently pragmatic to me; if it was a sixth-century edition of Boethius they were using, I’d see the objection, but if you need a bookend, then some unread work you’ve inherited from your grand-dad’s unread collection seems a more sensible choice than one of the books people are likely to read. And if you’re studying Boethius, then a more modern critical edition seems a better idea.

But I’m puzzled by his revelation that

“Because his staff were never quite sure whether the egg would be precisely to the satisfactory hardness, a series of eggs was cooked, and laid out in an ascending row of numbers. If the prince felt that number five was too runny, he could knock the top off number six or seven.”

I realise it’s difficult to get decent staff nowadays, but surely they could find someone who could remember that HRH must have his eggs boiled for exactly two-and-a-half minutes or whatever it is he may like.

There’s even, I discover, a formula they could use to get it exactly right:

To obtain a simple formula the problem must be idealised somewhat, so the egg will be treated as a spherical homogeneous object *of mass M and initial temperature Tegg. If the egg is placed straight into a pan of boiling water at Twater, it will be ready when the temperature at the boundary of the yolk has risen to Tyolk~63°C. With these assumptions, the cooking time t can be deduced by solving a heat diffusion equation.

*Hmm. Since few eggs are spherical, I can see there might be some problems here.

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