Monday, March 5, 2007

Balut Factor

I am Filipino and I eat balut.

A balut is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. It is considered a delicacy in the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

The sight, taste and texture of the embryo could be a challenge to foreigners who do not always take a liking to this Filipino street food that was recently featured on two American shows, Survivor: Palau and Fear Factor, where the contestants were made to eat balut.

I once attended a party in Arizona where a Filipina told her American boyfriend, "If you love me, you will eat this." The poor fellow did as he was told - he knocked the egg on the table, cracked it open, put a pinch of salt inside the small opening, slurped the juice until it dripped off his chin, and ate the entire contents of the shell, with his eyes shut and his shoulders crunched. We Filipinos cheered him on and gave him San Miguel beer as his prize.

A month ago, an Australian friend attended a party where my aunt served balut. He told me that he had tried the delicacy before and he was willing to eat it again. I dutifully plucked a warm balut from the buffet spread and handed it to him. He survived the juice-slurping part; at the mere sight of the duck embryo, however, his face turned absolutely red and he said he had never seen anything like that in his life. He could not finish the balut and apologized profusely for it. I think he was too polite to admit it, but he obviously looked grossed out. Maybe it was penoy that he ate before, which was just boiled duck egg and was nothing like the real thing. Everyone around him was eating balut during that particular party.

Last Sunday, I met two French mathematicians. After a hearty lunch, we gathered for drinks at the tree house that my tito built. They appeared to be an adventurous couple and my family encouraged them to try the balut. We warned them that it could be an unpleasant experience and assured them that we would not be offended if they backed out from the challenge. Our guests gamely watched my brother's balut-eating demonstration and then followed our directions. We clapped as they both finished one balut each. I fetched ice-cold San Mig Light for them to wash it down with.

I have to admit that I'm not a 100% balut-lover. I don't eat the baby chick. I can't. I usually give it to someone or throw it away. I don't tell it to the ones I challenge, however, to inspire them to go for it all the way.

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