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When I went grocery shopping last week, I was surprised to see that the entire egg section was empty, nary an egg to be found. It was then that news of the recall filtered into my consciousness. I had briefly heard the news on the salmonella outbreak, but didn’t pay much attention to it.

After seeing the store devoid of eggs and realizing that our refrigerator was also devoid of eggs, I snapped right to attention. I have twice now gone to the fridge for eggs, once to make corn muffins and another time to make chicken patties. The lack of eggs caused me to change dinner plans both times. We’re not big egg eaters in my family, but, boy, I sure am missing them.

Missing eggs makes me think about missing eggs – the ones missing from the grocery store. I tried to buy eggs from cage-free hens when I could. The store also had brown eggs and organic eggs, along with traditional white eggs. Stories on the recall of eggs, which I’m now paying close attention to, say that there are very few producers of commercial eggs in the country, so when one producer has issues, we end up with a massive recall – a half-billion eggs for the current situation.

Did that entire variety of eggs at the store, even the organic and cage-free, come from this producer, or had people made a run on eggs before I got to the store because they saw what was happening with the recall? If all of the eggs were pulled because they came from one producer, how are we to know whether the eggs labeled “cage-free” and “organic” were truly cage-free and organic? Is it possible that the store pulled all the eggs because it was worried about cross-contamination?

I returned to the store several days after grocery shopping and found the egg section just as empty. If the organic and cage-free eggs weren’t from the same producer, wouldn’t the store have gotten more eggs in? I’m so puzzled.

AlterNet has an article on “What Rotten Eggs Reveal About the State of Our Democracy” that has me questioning the entire egg industry. It also has an article that makes it sound as though eating eggs is as bad as swallowing nuclear waste, but, by golly, it’s difficult to find a good substitute for the humble egg as a binder in cooking.

If we’re going to be without eggs for much longer, however, we’re going to have to find a substitute, aren’t we? When Hubby and I went through a vegan phase years and years ago, I remember stumbling across an egg substitute in one of our cookbooks. I dug through our cookbook collection and found one egg substitute in “The New Laurel’s Kitchen” by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Brian Ruppenthal. On page 205 it suggests using grated raw or lightly steamed potatos as a binder for patties – like the chicken patties I wanted to make.

Looking online I see there are a number of potential egg substitutes, the appropriate substitute being dependent on what’s being prepared and the function of the egg in the recipe. Bananas, tofu, applesauce, vinegar mixed with water, gelatin, flax seed, Xanthan Gum, snow (yes, snow), and something called Ener-G Egg Replacer that I’ve seen in natural food stores, can all be used. If we have to go without eggs much longer, I may have to become best buddies with some of these substitutes.

If you’re feeling farklempt about the lack of eggs, here are a few websites that list the various substitutes and how to use them:

[About.com] What can I use to substitute for eggs in a recipe?

[The Cooking Inn] Egg Substitutes – Lots of possibilities here, including the aforementioned snow. Gives instructions for use of various substitutes.

[Post Punk Kitchen] Vegan Baking: Baking without eggs, milk and buttah – Repeats some of the egg substitutes listed in the links from above, but I like the name of the website and the attitude of the writing.