Every egg I’ve eaten in Cuenca has been delicious.
When I need eggs I walk to the end of the street to the tienda. The owner, Dianita, puts the eggs I buy in a small plastic bag and tells me to be careful with them. I walk them home, take them out of the bag, and put them in an egg rack that came with my refrigerator. I don’t put them in the refrigerator, though. The rack sits on top of the microwave.
Here in Ecuador, and in many other countries, people don’t refrigerate eggs and the eggs do not come with an expiration date.
Coming from the United States where we are told when we can and cannot eat our eggs and meats based on a printed date on the package, I was not accustomed to checking eggs to see if they’re okay to eat.
When I need an egg in Ecuador, it’s obvious that I need to rinse the chicken poop off the shell. What isn’t clear, though, is how old they are. Not only do I forget when I bought them, I have no idea when Dianita bought them from the egg supplier.
I have learned two different techniques to check the egg before using it. The first is my preferred method. I like to crack the egg into a small bowl before frying it, mixing into waffle batter, or scrambling it. Then, I look at it. If the yolk is slightly globe-shaped and sitting high, and the egg white is gathered closely around it, I use it. If the yolk is flat and the egg white is runny, I don’t.
My wife uses the method that is probably the most preferred and most reliable. She puts the egg in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom, she uses it. If it floats to the surface, she doesn’t.
I understand there’s a third egg-checking method, used by farm folks who raise chickens. Give the egg a gentle shake and if you feel something knocking around inside, don’t eat it.
In all of our tests, I can report that we rarely find newly purchased eggs that are bad. Freshness is the rule here.
Local meat is another matter altogether. If you buy it in the markets, you don’t really know anything about the age or how long it’s been unrefrigerated. Even some meats in the grocery store will be handed to you with no expiration date. Then, there are times when the expiration date on the grocery store meat means nothing — I know the smell of rot no matter what the date says on the label.
While I feel like I have the egg test mastered, meats are uncertain territory. I will continue my research in this area.