Cracks and Creation: “How the Light Gets In Tea Eggs”
Tia Linda: Spring seems to be arriving early in the desert, again, this year and egg laying is increasing significantly among my birds. It is less a function of temperature than it is the increase in light to the pituitary glad that increases egg laying. And my hens are broody, feeling strongly the impulse to sit upon and incubate eggs. Broodiness is a trait to be cherished in your birds. This is a great time of year (here in the Southwest) for the poultry aficionado to begin preparing for a new batch of chicks. In fact, it is not too early to have a eggs under a hen or in your incubator already.
For me, eggs have properties that go beyond being beautiful and nutritious. I feel more whole when I am collecting eggs; more in touch with Cycles. Aesthetically, they arrive in surprising varieties of oval shapes, sizes and colors. Nutritionally, they are chock full of minerals, are good for eyesight, and are a great source of (affordable) protein. In Michael Pollan’s book COOKED, he cites research from 2011, that states “ninety percent of a cooked egg is digested, where as only 65 percent of a raw egg” (Page 61n). Whether or not you are raising chicks, today’s recipe is a fun way to cook your eggs to get the most nutrition – and beauty- out of them.
But, before we get to the recipe.
Many cultures across time and space celebrate the egg. A few (painfully truncated) myths that include the egg show this.
*** The Universe began as an egg and a god (Pangu) born inside the egg broke the egg in two halves – the upper becoming the sky while the lower half became the earth. (Chinese). ***The concept of the universe as an Egg-shaped Cosmos, arose in Vedic thought. And so in Sanskrit, the term for it is Brahmanda. “Brahm” meaning ‘Cosmos’ or ‘expanding’ and “Anda” meaning EGG. In one version, the Golden Womb/Golden Fetus of the universe floated around in emptiness for a time, and them broke in two halves, forming heaven and earth. (Vedic). *** Another myth from Europe reveals the world being created from fragments of an egg laid by a diving duck perched on the knee of Ilmatar, a goddess of the air. (Finnish)
I sense a theme arising here. Cracks. And Creation. They seem to have something to do with one another.
Whether or not your believe myths to be literal or metaphorical, an explanation of mystery or a reflection of the human psyche, is yours to decide. Regardless, we can act as creators within our own pots and kitchens, and enjoy where the cracks take us. In our lives, “the cracks” are often involuntary and unasked for. Often, it is only later that we realize that it is these very cracks that allow some needed shift or change to occur.
With this recipe we can actively crack some shells. Let in some flavor. Some color. Create some beauty, all while being nourished.
Put 8-10 eggs in a pot and begin to hard boil them.
While you are doing this, begin making a tea/spice bath for the eggs to go into after boiling. I use a handful of whatever tea I particularly like at the moment (or 3-4 teabags if you prefer). Lately I have been using black tea, but have also experimented with oolong and green teas. Experimentation is the key, and you, being the creator, can shift and change your recipe as you like. To the tea, I add about three tablespoons of Chinese Five Spice. This is the basic recipe.
To this basic recipe you can add, fresh ginger (chopped) and/or some chile (I use chiltepin). Whatever spices that want to play on our tongue are the ones to use. Remember you are the creator, and the choice of spices and how you use, is completely up to you.
When the eggs are just boiled, cool them enough to handle them, and crack the shells. (above)
The tea and spice mixture, dry.
Place the tea and spice mixture in another pot, and add enough water to just cover the cracked eggs.
Simmer the eggs in the spice bath, for a good half an hour. Then turn off the heat, and let them sit for at least another hour. Do not rush this; steeping-time is needed to really absorb the flavor and color. Check the eggs while still in the bath; the membrane right under the shell will have a deeper color than that on the egg itself. (above)
Peel and enjoy both their beauty and flavor. I included this photo to inspire you, as well as to show that if you peel off chunks of the shell you can create darker patterns (and deeper flavor), as in the egg top left.
These also make a great egg salad, as they impart a great flavor.
If you do not eat them all right away, store the eggs in a glass jar, in the tea bath water (strain out the spices/tea), in the refrigerator.