Buying them and tithing them

Buying an egg from the Safeway supermarket in Los Angeles, and buying an egg in Tanzania, are two very different propositions.

In Africa, the egg is not one of the cheap protein items on the food budget.  To an African in the countryside, eggs come from chickens which browse the area around one's village.  The chance of a wild cat or other varmint getting a chicken is pretty good, and finding the eggs can be tricky.

Africans are very pleased to get eggs to add to the cooking pot.  They make a gourmet touch when added to the gravy, and in Ethiopia, the "wat" or gravy dish at a fine dinner will include one egg per person.  These eggs will have been cooking in the pot of chili pepper gravy for hours, so that they turn a brown red color all the way to the yoke.  Try adding hard boiled eggs to your curry pot also.  Ah now, I am getting hungry for a good pot of curry with fiery chutney.

Eggs are bought at the open air market, and it is hard to know if they are fresh.  When I was a kid growing up in Tanganyika, the local people would bring eggs to the back door.  We would buy them with money, salt, and tin cans, which were of rather high value since other cups were expensive.

My mother would take a pan of cold water to the back door, and every egg was tested.  When the egg was put into the water, it was really fresh if it sank to the bottom and lay on its side.  If it stood up on end partially, it was OK to eat but aging.  If it floated, if was about to explode.  The Africans would collect eggs for a number of days, then they would bring them to sell to us.  I don't think they really intended to rip us off as such, but then they just couldn't stand to throw away old eggs.

Chickens were brought to the back door for sale, as well as various vegetables.  Chickens were examined by feeling the breast bone.  If it was pliable and poorly developed, the chicken was young and good to eat.  If the breast bone was fully developed and sharp, watch out-- the athletic bird would have to go to the pressure cooker for an hour.

Once in a while the local kids would find an ostrich egg.  They would come running to sell it to us.  We drained out the egg by drilling a hole in one end, inverting it over a container, and inserting a straw.  When the straw was blown on, the egg would run out.  This left the ostrich egg in tact for taking back to the USA to show friends.

Fried eggs are not of any interest to Africans in the country side, though modern city dwelling Africans are trying just about anything they hear about from the rest of the world.  Eggs in Africa are always boiled.  When traveling on the train, and when the train stops in a station, men with huge trays of food will walk along beside the train selling various tasty wares.  The trains in India and many other countries have such vendors as well.  Eggs are a common food, along with boiled semi-dried corn and beans, and various kinds of fruit and candy.  The eggs are safe to eat since they are in the shell and have not been handled.  The beans and corn are great, but start a course of Tetracycline at once since you probably got dysentery from them.  Knowing the hazard of eating such food, the hardest thing to resist are the samusas.  This is a triangular pie made of a light envelope crust with meat and vegetables inside.  It is spiced with curry, and it is the ultimate treat to a hungry traveler.

In the 1950s, a missionary from Kenya was about to go on furlough to the USA for a year.  He had become loved greatly by the African Christians.  One lady came to him with a large number of eggs in a cloth bag with the ends tied up in a knot at the top.  She told the missionary, "eat one egg a week, and when they are all gone, it is time for you to come back to your home in Kenya."  Those moments, while they may show the African's inability to deal with the reality of life at large, nevertheless are precious moments, for they show the love of Christ which bridges vast gulfs between cultures.  Of course, in the 90s, Africans have leaped into the modern world, but these stories brighten our memories.

Eggs, being a protein, yet being less perishable then meat and milk, can be easily used for tithes and offerings at the church house.  I have seen many eggs brought to the front of the church to be given as offerings, for they ARE valuable in a land of little or no protein.  In some African churches, after the Sunday service, the eggs, corn, and squashes (marrow in UK) would be taken outside to the church steps to be auctioned off so that the offering could be turned to cash and entered in the treasurer's books.  At the church in Eldoret where we served, the auctions would become very jolly times.  This was because a bag of eggs might be bid on, and the buyer would pay for them and then hand them back to the deacon with instructions to auction them again.  A bag of eggs or a squash might be auctioned off four or five times bringing in a windfall to the treasury.  Eat your heart out Oral Roberts.

Next time you pick up a dozen eggs at the supermarket, just think of all the fun you are missing out on by living in the civilized world!  Also, don't forget the water test for eggs when you think some eggs you bought are old.  It is very accurate.