08 March 2012


I like the Asian grocer's.  The aisles of exotic, cheap foodstuffs, the smells and familiarity of being surrounded by the unfamiliar.  It puts a smile on my face as I browse with a basket slung over my arm.  Picking, choosing, thinking.  I grabbed a sixer of duck's eggs on a whim yesterday; they seem larger than those of chickens, and I can't recall ever eating one before.  The gal at the checkout seemed a bit perplexed.  In broken English, asking if I knew they were ducks'.
"Aye, ducks' eggs," I nod on amicably, glancing at my watch.  My lunch hour's nearly up and I've yet to get back to the office.  I have a stir fry planned for later, minced garlic and peppers and cabbage, chicken and graced with a duck's egg at the last.  Which is why it came as an unpleasant, hilarious sort of surprise when I went to crack open that extra-extra-large white oblong egg and found the sharp rift pulsating with ruddy afterbirthage.
Rushing the thing to the sink for fast inspection, an embryonic duck flopped out amid yolk and runny white.  It was horrible, hysterical.  I couldn't stop laughing.  The checkout gal had said they were ducks, not ducks'.  One by one, I pass the others in front of the overhead light.  Cloudy, every one.  Fertilized to the last.  Bugger.
I did a bit of research, the odd wiki page and a question or two to an old friend.  These are a specialty, balut in the Philippines.  Supposedly a proteiny snack and aphrodisiacal booster steeped in folklore and local culture.  It seems barbaric, disgusting; I must try it, if only to pit myself against my blander inclinations.
Day next, I've boiled four for a solid ten minutes (as per an instruction I found in an online Q&A column), the lime juice, salt, and an emergency glass of Polish vodka at the ready on the dining table.  I run an egg briefly under the tap, to a holdable cool.  I'll try at least one, and if it doesn't work out I'm okay with throwing the rest out.  Hesitantly, gingerly, I crack and unroll the shell, catching what flumps lifelessly out into a small bowl below.  Knife and fork in hand, I take it to table with impending dread.
It's veiny, grotesque.  I don't want to eat it, would feel terrible doing so, can't even look at it directly.  I poke at it with my knife - it feels soft, like organ meat or an overdone Spam.  Gradually I fork up a bite, half of a meaty embryo and a bit of golden yolk solids.  This first bite is surprisingly good.  Yolky, yes, but past that there's a subtle crunch of feather and bone, and the overall flavor of liver.  Yes, by all the gods, it's good!  I press on, ironically only unable to eat the familiar white, which is as hard as a stone.
I'm back to the kitchen for more, shelling and seasoning and consuming the other three with an awful sort of relish.  They're good, better than good.  As the feelings of guilt and disgust slip away I'm overcome with a feeling of triumph, that I can accomplish anything now.  I can overcome any fear, prod myself past any discomfort.  Eating balut is more than just an exotic meal; to do it once is to dethrone God himself, to push one's sensibilities and sympathies to a backseat and embrace an entirely new sort of existence.  It's an abortion of finickiness, and I feel liberated at having undergone the venture.

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