The Egg and I tells the story of life on a chicken farm near Chimacum in the early days of Betty MacDonald’s first marriage. She was a city girl, a fish out of water, trying to make the best of her new reality and responsibilities on the rural and rugged Olympic Peninsula in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
In 1945, she writes: “Then I gathered the eggs. Gathering eggs would be like one continual Easter morning if the hens would just be obliging and get off the nests. Cooperation, however, is not a chickenly characteristic and so at egg-gathering time every nest was overflowing with hen, feet planted, and a shoot-if-you-must-this-old-gray-head look in her eye. I made all manner of futile attempts to dislodge her—sharp sticks, flapping apron, loud scary noises, lure of mash and grain—but she would merely set her mouth, clutch her eggs under her and dare me. In a way, I can’t blame the hen—after all, soft-shelled or not, they’re her kids.”
The book was a blockbuster, selling a million copies within a year and more than 3 million in all. Within two years of publication, the endearing, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny memoir was made into a movie starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. It, in turn, inspired nine Ma and Pa Kettle features.
Today, the road leading to the site of her former egg farm from State Route 19 is named Egg and I Road.
Read MacDonald’s sharp, well-observed, heartwarming story, The Egg and I
Review of the 1947 film (New York Times, April 25, 1947)
More about eggs
Chicken eggs (Spring 2024)
From the archives: The essential egg (Spring 2013)