Boiled Eggs with Chicks Inside for Lunch

Adventures in Eating: Anthropological Experiences in Dining From Around the World

Chapter 2: Boiled Eggs with Chicks Inside, or What Commensality Means by Roger Ivar Lohmann

Abstract:

Commensality, the act of eating together, is a powerful operator of social connections. Lohmann, an anthropologist studying in New Guinea and author of this chapter, shares his story of engaging in the local cuisine and culture. Despite his initial apprehensiveness, Lohmann boiled a wild egg with a living chick inside and ate it. Later in his stay, Lohmann hatched one of those wild eggs and kept it as a pet for his children.

Giddens would classify this as a disembedded mechanism. Lohmann, the anthropologist, in this case, was “lifted” from his natural environment (the US) and placed in the heart of New Guinea. This action alone will inevitably result in cultural shocks, specifically in cuisine. The dish of discussion right now is the egg. Eggs are consumed all over the world, however, in various manners. In the US, we eat pasteurized eggs whereas in places like New Guinea, they eat wild eggs with chicks growing inside. This method gives a new meaning to what we know as “steak and eggs”. To support the idea of eating an egg with a chick inside, Lohmann compared it to the steak and eggs that we consume in the US. This is an example of embedding one culture into another culture. Lohmann does this again when he hatches one of the chicks and keeps it as a pet in his home.

When thinking about food and globalization, the most common idea is the adoption of imported goods. However, we often fail to think about the import of people into new environments, experiencing disembedded mechanisms. Lohmann demonstrates a sort of tug-of-war between two cultures, his own and that of New Guinea. Lohmann manipulated this wild egg in two ways. One way was to boil it and eat it with the chick inside, as the New Guinean people. The other way was to adopt the chick inside this egg as a pet, which is a common American idea. Americans turn snakes, rats, and even pigs into pets. It was American nature that inclined Lohmann to hatch this chick and turn it into a pet for his children. Evidently, the people of New Guinea did not approve of this because they see the chick serving one purpose; to be eaten.

The two uses of the egg described above represent the relationship between two cultures. To deepen this relationship, it was represented as a disembedded mechanism, a first hand experience of a combination of two cultures in one situation. Essentially, cultures can be transferred, adopted, and altered. To transfer a food “word for word” would be to disembed it. To adopt a food, would be to honor it as a consumable item and then make it your own, according to the given culture, or in other words, alter it.

5 thoughts on “Boiled Eggs with Chicks Inside for Lunch

  1. I appreciate the way that you noted that Lohmann used the egg in two different ways. “One way was to boil it and eat it with the chick inside, as the New Guinean people. The other way was to adopt the chick inside this egg as a pet, which is a common American idea.” You connected this to Giddens’ topic of disembedding. I can see how this same egg scenario could also be related to Giddens’ topic of trusting in another’s expertise. “For trust is only demanded where there is ignorance” (Giddens, 89). Lohmann was not completely ignorant on how to put use to an egg; (he knows of the American uses for it), but one could say that since he was a visitor to New Guinea, he was ignorant to their customs, therefore he trusted in the locals’ expertise on how to use the egg, along with his own prior knowledge. Putting use to objects in different ways based on different cultural practices: how many times could we account for doing this every day?

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  2. This article was very interesting; I liked how you talked about both of Lohmann’s experiences with the egg. I also like how you looked at and compared both the US and New Guinea’s culture, through their cuisine. “In the US, we eat pasteurized eggs whereas in places like New Guinea, they eat wild eggs with chicks growing inside.” This egg example says a lot about the two different cultures. In the US if we were to accidentally get an un-pasteurized egg from the store we would automatically throw it out. However, in New Guinea people would eat it. As a nation we waste too many things. Additionally, this scenario is exactly like Giddens’ topic of disembedding. “the lifting out of social relations from local contexts of interaction and their restructuring across indefinite spans of time-space.” (Giddens)

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  3. I found your blog post to be very interesting and I learned a new word commensality because of it. Lohmann’s experience with the eggs is interesting, because i don’t think i could eat a fertilized egg knowing that there was an actual chicken fetus in it. Like you said ” In the US, we eat pasteurized eggs whereas in places like New Guinea, they eat wild eggs with chicks growing in them.” The two cultures are extremely different from each other. I feel like Giddens applies to this through his idea of Risk and danger in the modern world, because we pasteurize our eggs unlike the people from New Guinea for health and safety reasons. Do you think you could eat an unpasteurized egg?

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  4. This blog post made me feel a little uneasy, however, I liked it. I enjoyed how I learned about a way that a new culture eats a food we eat in America all the time, eggs. I like how you don’t judge the way the people of New Guinea eat there eggs with the chicken fetus inside. This is just a very informative blog post. It was surprising to me how Lohmann trusted the people of New Guinea when presented with the fetal chicken in the egg and he still ate it. This is something most of us cannot do because of how we are used to eating eggs. Do you think you could eat an egg this way?

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  5. People are proudly vary different when it comes to cuisine. “To support the idea of eating an egg with a chick inside, Lohmann compared it to the steak and eggs that we consume in the US. This is an example of embedding one culture into another culture. Lohmann does this again when he hatches one of the chicks and keeps it as a pet in his home.” Speaks to the notion that cultures have their own frames of reference and must put new experiences as best as they can in their framework. But apart from that, cultures have different reactions and practices, which are natural to them. For example Americans don’t eat live animals, or most don’t like too. How could this precedent be drawn elsewhere in other cultural areas?

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