When I first moved to China, I thought that the pile of eggs stacked so neatly at the wet markets looked so naked without their egg crate packaging. Bringing home eggs in a small plastic baggie?! The idea seemed so outrageous, so crazy. What happened if they BROKE?!
But like many other things, the sights and sounds that were once so foreign and shocking are now a part of my daily life– a daily life that I have expectation of now, yearnings for, even. I am going back to the states for a couple of weeks in August, and have a feeling that reverse culture shock might take place. As insane as it may sound, I love the dirty alleyways, the open-air meat markets, the couples yelling on the subway, and the pushing and shoving in lines. Okay, maybe not that last one.
Most of all, I love my markets. I love the chicken lady who knows I usually buy whole chickens cut into quarters, the lady I buy most of my greens from and tells me what’s best to buy, I love the mangosteens and dragonfruit and huge watermelons that are piled on the fruitstands, I love having to walk to my local wet market every other day if I choose to cook, I love circling the vegetable stalls two or three times before I decide on what to lay my hands on. I even love having to run from store to store to store to find something as simple as AP flour.
And even though I don’t love to eat eggs, I love buying them. In fact, my newfound love of egg purchasing has almost gotten me to turn the corner as far as eating them. At the wet markets in China, egg vendors set up with mounds of egg pyramids piled layers deep– chicken eggs, duck eggs, salted eggs, large goose eggs. Of course the chicken egg pyramids are piled the highest, and though there are often more than one variety of chicken eggs, I do what I do in China when I have no idea what my choices actually are– just choose something in between. So I usually buy the chicken eggs that are in the middle, both in terms of price as well as color and size.
Now, all egg vendors also have a small ledge with holes in front of their stand, as if it were a ring toss booth at a county fair. Choose your eggs, flip on a switch under the ledge by your hips and a light bulb turns on inside the hold. Each egg can then be placed over the hole and examined to make sure there are no unlaid embryos looming within. It’s quite a meditative process to me now, carefully selecting each egg and setting them aglow to examine them.
Buying a dozen white eggs in their cartons from the supermarket now seems like a concept so wasteful, so removed, so forced. Sure there’s plenty of things that I miss about “home”, but like I said I’m getting used to how things are done around here– and some things really aren’t that bad at all.