Friday, May 15, 2015

Tonquin Eggs (1680)

I have a brief story for you today - brief because I am pre-occupied  with setting up a new computer, which for me,is not a quick job.  I am, however,determined to learn to love Windows 8. Wish me luck, please. 

My story continues the theme of preserved eggs, but this time comes from the mysterious location of  seventeenth century Tonquin - or North Vietnam as we know it today.  The intrepid traveller who brings us this tale is Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, and it is included in his account of his travels - A Collection of Several Relations & Treatises Singular and Curious (1680):-

"I have told you that Hens and Ducks are infinitely numerous in Tunquin; I will now tell you how they preserve the Eggs of these Creatures,which they will keep for two or three years together without being fpoil 'd. They Salt them, and to make them take salt, they fill a Vessel full of Water, and throw a good quantity of Salt into it. If the Egg sink to the bottom, the Pickle is not good; then they throw in more Salt, till they find that the Eggs swim. The Pickle being thus made, they take Ashes, and make them up into a Paft with this Pickle: and in this Part they enclose every Egg by itself, and then wrap it up in a leaf of an Herb, not unlike one of our Pear-tree leaves, but much larger, and then put the Eggs into Earthen Pots close cover'd: after which manner they keep their Eggs for two or three years together.
In other parts of the Indies where there is great ftore of Oyl, as in the Dominions of the Great Mogul, the Kingdoms of Pegu and Arochan, they put their Eggs into great Earthen Pots well varnish'd, and then fill the Vessel with an Oyl which is made of a small Seed like Rape-seed. For as for Sallad Oyl, after you are once pass'd Aleppo, you see no more Olive-trees over Asiabut only in one place of Persia near Casmin where between the Mountains lies a little Valley , about a League long and half a League broad, full of Olivetrees, but they make but very little Oyl, preferring the Olives only to eat. But to return to the Eggs; they are the chief Provision which they eat a Ship-board. But the Eggs which are preserv'd in Salt are preferred much before those that are kept in Oyl, because that in using the first, there is no need of carrying Salt to Sea, or of boiling Salt with their Rice, When they eat them, they boil them till they are hard, and with every mouthful of Rice they eat a Pea's Bigness of Egg , which is as good and better then Salt with their Rice. As to what remains, there are neither Mines of Gold nor Silver in the Kingdom of Tunquin, neither do they Coin any Money."

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