Friday, April 30, 2010 at 7 a.m.
It looked disgusting on the package. And I had never known a living soul who had, admittedly, eaten so much as a bite of one. So what possessed me to pick up a box of six preserved duck eggs at the Asian market still remains a mystery. Now it also ranks as a big regret.
Also known as century eggs
, supposedly this odd food got its name because its discovery, though not verifiable, was said to have occurred 600 years ago during the Ming dynasty when a homeowner found some duck eggs in a shallow pool of slaked lime
. Upon tasting the eggs (probably after a night of conjuring dragons in his opiate-consumed mind), he decided to produce more.
Today companies supposedly create these, uh, delicacies by dipping the eggs in quicklime, sea-salt, and ash from burned oak that has been added into tea and mixed together into a paste. Then the mud-covered eggs are individually rolled in a mass of rice chaff and placed in cloth-covered jars or tightly woven baskets where they ripen. Interestingly they take on the appearance of, well, mud and tea.
After three years the eggs are said to be ready for consumption. I must respectfully disagree. These should never be consumed. Ever. By anyone. Even by that girl I hated in high school. It didn't surprise me to find that Wikipedia reported, "According to a persistent myth, century eggs are, or once were, prepared by soaking eggs in horse urine." I can't even imagine equine pee making this item any worse. I've never eaten anything my body rejected so quickly and I don't intend to ever go down that road again.
The accompanying photos will tell the story. Stage one: Crack the ashen, fragile, slightly translucent shell. Stage two: Admire cool polka-dotted skin and experience feeling of denial. (Tell yourself, "Hmm, maybe this won't be so bad after all.") Stage three: Peel back the spotty sheath and discover glossy, black/amber-colored albumen. Gaze in wonder. Stage four: Notice odd tortoise-shell color pattern on the side and let doubt begin to set in. Stage five: Chop egg in half and pray that the sludgy, brownish-greenish-grayish yolk somehow tastes different than it smells (something akin to the funk found on your refrigerator drain pan after realizing it hasn't been cleaned in two decades). Stage six: Reject from body. Immediately! [The editors decided it would be best to leave this photo out.]
Who should eat these? People with iron stomachs who have become too bored with the thousands of SKUs found at their neighborhood grocery store. And those who will never, ever refuse a double-dog dare.