Monday, April 18, 2011

No fake eggs, only good and bad ones

The news you have been fed by the radio, newspapers or the TV about fake eggs is inaccurate -- fake, if you will.
The so-called "fake" eggs seized from the Pulau Tikus wet market in Penang a few weeks ago were real.

Veterinary Services Department director-general Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin said so.

Apparently, the department ran tests and found nothing fake about the eggs. So, don't worry. Go ahead and have your hard-boiled eggs or roti telur today.

When my colleague told me about fake eggs from China being sold here, I was amused. According to him, it costs only three sen to produce a fake egg.

If indeed eggs can be faked -- and so cheaply at that -- greedy local traders would be crowing all the way to the bank. Poultry farmers would be crying foul.

But now we know that "fake" eggs are but only deformed ones that are deemed unfit for sale because they are not aesthetically pleasing.

Ironically, such confusion and controversy can only happen in the modern age. Those who love their eggs these days have probably never reared chickens. If they had, they would not have been so easily ruffled.

When my family lived in the kampung back in the 1970s, we reared chicken, ducks, turkeys and geese.

Our neighbours also had their free-ranging poultry.

As children, we knew how to distinguish one type of egg from another, and not mistake a duck's egg for a hen's. We also saw our share of strange eggs, especially those from chickens.

Did you know that shell of the hen's egg is soft when it is laid, but hardens within seconds?

But some of the eggs remained soft indefinitely. We have also seen "deformed" ones, which shells are rough to the touch. Some are not oval but round like a turtle's egg. There were also those with shells so thin they cracked as easily as a lizard's egg.

Some eggs came with two yolks, which according to an old wives' tale, would result in the birth of Siamese twins if they were eaten by a pregnant woman.

To deal with deformities of the egg shell, we burned cockle shells, ground them into powder, and added it into the chicken feed.

Within weeks, hens fed this mix would lay uniformly sized eggs with normal, shiny shells.

Our elders believed that hens laid abnormal eggs because of too little calcium in their diet, hence the cockle shell supplement.

I do not know if that is true. But I do know that when we wanted the yolks to be bright yellow, we only needed to feed the hens a ground padi husk and corn mix.

The problem kampung folk faced those days was not fake eggs, but hidden eggs. The free-ranging hens were experts in hiding their eggs - in the lemon grass (serai) bushes or under piles of firewood.

Our clue was the hen's incessant clucking after it has laid an egg.

Where the hen clucks, the egg is not far away. The Malay proverb Bertelur sebiji, riuh sekampung was hatched from this. It is applied to people who like to brag about their accomplishments, especially small, insignificant deeds.

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