Sunday, November 12, 2017

You Don't Need a Recipe For Tea-eggs

I’m a librarian, home again after working away for most of the past year. Re-establishing my place as parent in control of the personal realm, desperately Nordic-death-cleaning the helter-skelter of the house, and getting into a writing practice are the main activities competing for my time. My spouse, Jim, and our teenage son did a good job of holding down the fort, and they have convinced me they are glad to see me back. Son grew a foot while I was away and became even more of a picky eater. He waffles between being not-hungry and being famished, largely dependent on what flavour suits his changing, discriminatory pallet. Unlike in household chores, he eagerly offers assistance with my writing. A natural at storytelling and teaching, the last three summers he has spent a week a writer’s camp.

Recently, I wandered into the kitchen to find Jim, bent over a steamy stove, checking on a dark brown broth with lemon wedges poking amidst a stew of bobbing and bubbling boiled eggs. Owl-y from job stress, he takes refuge in the surety of kitchen work and the comfort it provides.  
“What the…?” I ask.
“Mom used to make these,” (anything his mom made is sacred to us both). “They’re tea eggs,” he says, tapping around the shell melodically with the back of a spoon.
“Where’s the recipe?”
“I don’t have her recipe so I’m experimenting. Tea-eggs are street food in China and other parts of Asia.”
“Have you tried the Internet?”
“No - I’m going to recreate what I remember about her making them. You don’t need a recipe for tea-eggs.”
“Ah ha! Tea-eggs sounds like a great blog topic!”

Son, overhearing our conversation, sails into the room, confident and eager to guide my writing with instructions. “Start the interview by asking the subject to identify themself with their name,” he blurts. “Proceed with questions. After the interview, find the focus and choose the details.”
Impressive. I’m convinced he learned much of this at writing summer camp in a seminar on journalism, held around a picnic-table at Kamp Kiwanis.

Jim gives historical context, “Mom used to make these before we even had soya sauce in the fridge, when Asian cooking was considered quite exotic. For ingredients she used eggs, tea bags, water, lemon, soya sauce, spices such as bay leaf, ginger, anise, or cardamom." Here are directions, but you don’t need a recipe for tea eggs.
1.    Boil eggs for 10 minutes.
2.    Drain and crack the shell lightly with the back of a spoon.
3.    Leaving the cracked shells on the egg, place in a broth with remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour or longer.
4.    Store in the fridge and enjoy as a snack.
Jim says, “You can eat these eggs when you get home from school. They will be in the fridge in this funny looking brown liquid.”
The rise of an eyebrow. Teen is curious…a good sign. Helping himself to a tea-egg, he smiles!

Try making tea-eggs yourself. They have good production value; lots of ingredients, flexible additions, time-consuming so you can get into a groove, a state of flow. They are easy to prepare and relatively healthy. You don’t need a recipe, but if you want more directions you can find online information here:

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