Sunday, August 11, 2013

Good Eggs, Bad Eggs

This is another installment of my Cooking Adventures in China series. It can also fall into the subset called I Didn't Poison My Guests.

To explain: I decided to have a kids-are-gone-so-keep-myself-distracted dinner party. And then, I decided that Beijing's hot and humid weather inspired me to do a party with summer foods: deviled eggs, guacamole and chips, salmon fillet, potato salad, ratatouille, and a peach tarte tatin for dessert. Inspired, as I said.

So the first thing I needed to do was boil some eggs for the deviled eggs and the potato salad. I did that and then Bob and I went out to buy the rest of the ingredients for the dinner party. It's a laborious process that involves a cab ride to the market at Sanyuanli because I'm a little uncertain about the fish at a local wet market, and then a stop at Jenny Lou's for things like whipping cream, a baguette, ice.

The first egg-related tactical error came about when, in an effort to prevent a mesh bags of eggs to be crushed, I put them in my purse. After we finished shopping, we hailed a cab because the weather was about 95, humid and dangerously polluted. I hopped into the car.

Crunch, went my purse.
I decided to wait until I got home to view the carnage.
As I exited the cab, I heard another crunch. Luckily, I had put the eggs inside a second plastic bag, so that the instant omelet was contained. Two eggs lost. It could have been worse.

Then we walked into our apartment.
"What is that SMELL?" I asked Bob accusingly. (31 years of marriage allows me to say these sorts of things accusingly with little or no evidence to support the accusing tone.)

"I don't smell anything," said Bob, who never smells anything.

In China, an unusual smell could come from all sorts of places: a pipe in the bathroom where the septic gases seem to back up every now and then, the neighbor's decision to fry up some rank fish, the air, the great unwashed in the unventilated elevators.

But this was a smell almost like.....rotten eggs. So many people compare bad smells to the smell of rotten eggs that I just didn't make the connection. (And yes, it's possible that I've dropped a few brain cells in my China sojourn.)

I proceeded to start preparing the deviled eggs. This was where it all got very interesting. As I peeled the eggs, I realized that some of the whites were more of a gray than white. Hmmmmm. And when I sliced the eggs, I discovered that in some, the yolk wasn't a round spot in the center of the egg, but more of an odd yellow squiggle at one end. Hmmmmm again.

Then my remaining brain cells kicked in and I remembered that not too long ago, there had been a rash of stories about fake eggs in the markets. Someone figured out that it was actually cheaper to use gelatin and who knows what to make fake eggs to save money. How this is possible is beyond my limited mental capacity. But you can look it up.

When I revealed my suspicions to Bob, he said, helpfully, "Maybe we shouldn't use these eggs for our dinner party." And then he sat down on the couch and said, "Let me know if you need me to do anything!"

I remembered I had the purse eggs, so I boiled up the ones that had survived the journey in the purse. These smelled like eggs, good eggs.

But before I could add the mayonnaise that we had just bought, I opened the jar. Mold. I think Bob was somewhat surprised to find himself marching back to Jenny Lou's to replace the mayo, since I rarely take him up on his offer of "help." But this time it came in handy. And it gave me a second opportunity not to poison my guests. Win-win.

I write this on the day after the dinner party, where I think I can safely assume I would have had news if I had caused any problems. And if you happen to be reading this and happen to have been one of those guests, um, hey.

I was too much in a state of shock and horror to photograph the bad eggs, but I do have evidence of the successful deviled eggs. Whether the first batch was fake or just rotten is still uncertain to me. Whether I'm brave enough to venture deviled eggs again in this country is also uncertain.

But I think I can safely say a good time was had by all.


  1. Deb, I laughed out loud at the "What is that SMELL?" part.
    Glad it all worked out and hope the party helped with the empty nest syndrome.

  2. Deb, you are hysterical. But "fake eggs?" They open them and blow a hole in them? Whaaaat?

    Sorry we missed you in DC. I heard from Katherine Hazard that you were walking up the alley (??) a few minutes before I ran into her. She said you return in 18 months. Not soon enough for the family lungs but we look forward to you being back on Burlington Place. xoxo Susan