Jun 07

Ovos de Codorna (Quails’ Eggs)

Before I get going I just want to acknowledge an uncertainty that I’m sure you English teachers out there can help me with. I feel instinctively that it’s OK to write “quails eggs”, but part me feels that it should have an apostrophe, like this: quails’ eggs. You know, eggs belonging to multiple quails. But then I’m not really talking about possession here, it’s more like “eggs of quails” than “I took the quails’ eggs”. Help me out here people! Anyway, until I hear differently I’m going to go sans apostrophe – let’s move on!

In Portuguese, the word for quail (the bird, not the verb) is Codorna. As I’m sure you all know, these tiny little birds lay tiny little eggs.


Pretty aren’t they?


Back in England I always thought of quails’ eggs as being a bit special, fancy even. They are the sort of ingredient you might see used in a nice restaurant or at a fancy dinner party (dipped in celery salt – yum!).

Here in Brazil things seem quite different. You routinely see a big bowl of these little eggs (hard boiled) alongside all the other items at even inexpensive kilo restaurants. They even put them on hotdogs!

Quails’ eggs are cheap here – I saw a carton of 30 fresh eggs for R$3 ($1.50 US) in a supermarket recently. That works out at 5 US cents per egg! Looking for an equivalent price from the UK, I found 12 fresh (not free range) eggs for £3 (38 US cents per egg).

Just some of the 30 eggs I purchased for R$2

Price per egg – 5 US cents


A word if warning if you decide to pick up some quails’ eggs from a supermarket: check them carefully before putting them in your basket. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say that I had a harrowing experience with my first quail egg purchase – it involved the discovery of large numbers of wriggling maggots when I got home. Put me off eggs for months…

Anyway, all this egg chit-chat was mostly just an excuse to show you some pretty pictures of quails’ eggs, so here’s one more.



Have a cracking weekend – may it be filled with eggcitement (not maggots).


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  1. Phil

    I’d barely recovered from the crawling cocoon when I read about the maggoty eggs. Nice! :)

    You can avoid the whole issue of apostrophizing or not by simply calling them “quail eggs,” where “quail” acts more like an adjective than a noun. It’s similar to the phrase “chicken livers,” which is how we refer to them in the US (not that I’m fond of them, in fact I can’t stand them).

    But if you want the noun with an “s” at the end, I think you have to either make it a singular or plural possessive, which requires the apostrophe. This would be like the phrase “goat’s milk.” One tip-off for the eggs lies in the Portuguese, with the “de” in “ovos de codorno” indicating a possessive structure.

    Don’t you just love grammar?

    Anyway, great photos and thanks for only sharing the nice ones, not the bad eggs. Consider yourself lucky that the bad eggs weren’t in the house at the same time as the crawling cocoon. Hmmm…..the cocoon didn’t by any chance show up right after the bad eggs, did it?

    1. tomlemes

      Ha ha! Sorry Phil – I’ll try to keep nasty bugs out of my posts for a little while now! And thanks also for the grammar points – it makes sense, though my only remaining question is over the placements of the apostrophe. Given that we don’t know the can make a fair assumption that these eggs came from more than one quail, wouldn’t it be best to go with quails’ eggs? At some point I’ll have to go through and update my text…

      1. Phil

        Hey Tom, this is why possessive apostrophes are such a huge pain in the neck. It really makes one appreciate the elegant simplicity of the Romance languages, with their “de” (or “di”) possessive constructions. Granted, it may take an extra word to express the thought, but it does so without ambiguity.

        I remembered a passage in “Brideshead Revisited” involving references to the eggs of plovers, and went back to the book to find it and see if it would settle the question. And it does….more or less.

        On one page, author Eveyln Waugh (is the name Evelyn used for a male *anywhere* except in the UK?) writes, “He was alone when I came, peeling a plover’s egg.” On the next page, he writes, “Each as he came into the room made first for the plovers’ eggs.” In this case, the total number of plovers’ eggs was more than a dozen, so it’s reasonable to assume that one plover wasn’t responsible for the entire batch. It’s equally reasonable to use the singular possessive when referring to “a plover’s egg,” because that particular, single egg could not be laid by more than one plover.

        This line of reasoning fits well with what you had already figured out, so you should feel vindicated to be in such august literary company as your countryman Mr. Waugh (and grateful to your parents for giving you a name less exotic than his).

        1. tomlemes

          Ha ha! Nice comment Phil :) I’m always happy to be compared with esteemed writers – even those with effeminate names. And thanks for confirming my understanding of the possessive apostrophe. Next time I’ll use it with confidence!

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