Balut: An Egg’s Secret–Nerissa Martinez

Posted on January 17, 2012


As M.F.K Fisher had once stated in her “How Not to Boil an Egg”, “Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken”. What that egg revealed to me should have been censored.

I remember going to my auntie’s house for our ritual family gatherings on Saturdays, my time well spent being a preadolescent and my rebellious antics had not yet kicked in. My stomach usually growled because when we were all together that meant everything to eat and a lot of it. Sometimes I had the occasional brat-like tendency of looking at the food, daydream for Taco Bell and ignore my mother’s pestering voice yelling “if you don’t like it, then you don’t eat, simple”. Preadolescents also did not appreciate good, home-cooked food when they had it. Only in college did that appreciation seem to be more apparent.

This time, however, it was a good day and the lumpia, pancit, and crispy pata, was enough to satisfy me, and of course, accompanied with the warm, fluffy clumps of white rice. I sat along my cousins as we laughed at our elder’s repulsively talking with their mouths full, trying to talk louder than the next person in order to be heard. (Discussing anything was a sport for us, the louder you were, the more you were heard. If new boyfriends or friends were introduced to this deafening clan, we only had two words, “Keep up”. ) In the mix and interchanging between their native tongue and their dialect, I kept hearing the word “balut”, with grins in their faces indicating some inside joke I clearly was unaware of. Remember when I mentioned something about new boyfriends having to keep up, well, their faces towards him said it all. They asked him to try it, and he did, daringly.

I asked my mom what was this “balut”, little did I know that I was better off not knowing. My mom simply said “It’s just an egg”. If it was just an egg, “What was all the fuse about?”, I thought. The shell’s white color was nevertheless the same size and shape as a regular, white egg I was used to. It was smooth, weighing a little heavier than the average. Once cracked, however, it was a different story. A transparent juice dripped down the side of the half open shell, and I was ordered to slurp it up before peeling the rest. I couldn’t do it. My mom did it for me. Then I slowly and cautiously peeled the rest. Each crackling sound terrified me, as if something was going to jump out and grab my hand, slowly revealing more of what was in stored. Inside, a vibrant yellow yolk, covered with seemed like veins, cushioned an unlived little chick, colorless and slimy. I covered my mouth as to not project what I had just consumed, pushing it away to my mother to neither smell, nor taste it. I could not believe this was humanly possible to digest. My family laughed at me for being turned off by one of their culture’s many delicacies. My mother, pinching a little salt on it, and gobbled it down like jello saying “What’s wrong?” I was stunned. Not even being on the brink of 13 could give me the guts to down that thing, as I humbly ate my plain, predictable rice.

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