The best post night-out snack is undoubtedly chips. Failing that, something else beige and stodgy, like toast or crisps. If your cupboard is particularly barren, you can and should eat a ball of mozzarella like an apple. However, my lovely, caring boyfriend of two and a half years will open the fridge with a burgeoning desire for one thing only. He will make a beeline for the pickled egg jar, pausing to offer me one, before scooping the slimy spheres into his mouth. This gives me a vital head-start because after this little routine will come a ferocious chase. The same boy that carries heavy furniture for my mum and fixes my sisters’ IT problems will hunt me down so that he can kiss me with pickled egg breath.

Some people may read this and think: 

You’re one to talk. I’ve seen your brunch order (four hash browns, salted). Your favourite crisps are the red hula hoops. You think that toothpaste is too spicy and only recently will you eat your Wagamama ramen without asking for no chillies. 

I will admit, I love bland food and some of my meals may leave a little to be desired in terms of flavour. But I have never eaten a pickled egg, which is worse than any of my flavourless meals. Firstly, I really don’t like egg whites especially when they look like egg whites. Scrambled eggs are fine, hard boiled are not. Secondly, they smell appalling. My third reason is a little harder to explain and requires a brief foray into my time as a Brownie.

At primary school, all of the girls went to Brownies. This was held in the local village hall and run by three women who were all named after owls (Barney, Tawny and Snowy. Unclear if these were made up). In case you are unfamiliar with being a Brownie, it is a mildly misogynistic alternative to Boy Scouts. You are supposed to learn practical (read: home-making) skills, but all we actually did was tie knots in strawberry laces and do origami. In the summer, the Brownie leaders took us on trips, like a walk to the nearest park or to any local museums. (Or Tawny’s hot tub, which made origami difficult.) One of these museums was at the back of the vets and was full of natural curiosities.

I am assuming that my Brownie leaders, like myself, thought this would just be carrots that look like people, weird plants and some fossils. Instead, we walked into a large room that smelt like packaged chicken breast. Light filtered through greenish water in large tanks–or, should I say, jars–making our yellow and brown uniforms particularly lurid. In these jars floated an assortment of animals. As it transpired, this was not a normal local museum. The one we had visited a few weeks before had contained a bit of pavement from 1856 when the monarch’s great niece twice removed visited the town, a chair which a mayor had sat in, and a really old coke bottle. This one was very different. The room was filled with the animals that had turned up to the vets but couldn’t quite be saved on account of some hideous deformity. There was a two-headed cow, an inside-out goat, a huge tapeworm, a seagull with several sets of eyes, a deer with tumours and an inside-out sheep, just in case the goat didn’t fulfil your desire to see the inside of livestock.

Unsurprisingly, the girl who had brought in her ‘worm tank’ for show and tell the week before was enthralled. Everyone else took one look at a bloated cat intestine and cried. I was amongst the criers. Obviously, the contents of the jars were traumatising: I abhorred how they were floating, gently bumping the glass walls in macabre syncopation. I did not like the smell, or the giggling, hunched man who explained how they removed the tapeworm from some poor creature. But as I grew up and left Brownies, the sadness of the dingy room became more apparent to me. A lot of these animals had been in pain when they died and instead of letting them rot peacefully into the ground, this perverse vet practice  had PICKLED THEM so that their final moments of pain could be viewed again and again by the public.

This does not mean that I tear up every time my boyfriend offers me a pickled egg. But it does mean I have strong objections to the world’s favourite Pinterest poem: Laura Gilpin’s ‘The Two-Headed Calf.’

I despise this poem. I am not a great lover of poetry in general but I cannot stand this poem. Apologies if you have pinned it to your poetry Pinterest board with a picture of a field at night. We all have different tastes. Some of us enjoy pickled eggs and that is (just about) acceptable. The poem is about a two-headed calf’s final night, where he will die and be put in a museum. Until he is found by the farm boys, the calf can enjoy a private, poignant night with his mother where there are double the number of stars because the cow has four eyes etc etc. How moving. In reality, the cow is going to be observed by screaming Brownies, until the museum shuts down because it has scared too many children. At pick-up time, parents will look at him, grimace, then write strongly worded emails to Snowy about how their daughter is having nightmares. Some may develop a fear of pickled eggs. However, this poem allows us to observe the ‘freak of nature’ before it is discovered and actually becomes one, but at no point in the poem is this animal not a freak being used as entertainment. It may not be in a jar yet, but Gildin’s poem means that it might as well be. Apparently, we can’t just let it chill in the field. We have to write a poem about how it doesn’t realise anything is wrong but we know that the dawn sky means PICKLING and little girls crying and pointing at it. Then, the cow is pinned to Pinterest pages alongside a cute graphic. It has been pickled for our pleasure since birth.

Possibly, my analysis of this poem is a little jaded. I do also understand that once the cow is dead, it probably isn’t particularly bothered by Pinterest pages. It also probably wasn’t bothered when it was alive, but I am bothered on its behalf. I also understand that the animals in the museum were also probably dead long before they ever went in the jars and do not care about Miss Worm Tank taking a concerning amount of pictures, but I remain troubled by this. Will writing this turn the cows the right way round? No. Will Laura Gilpin remove her poem from the internet? No. Most importantly, will my boyfriend stop eating pickled eggs?  ‘Get fucked.’