“These are the best eggs I’ve ever tasted,” my visiting friend said.
“Yeah, and look at the color,” I held up the hard boiled yolk, a vivid orange marked by toothmarks (mine). It could be that hunger is the best seasoning; we were at the end of a strenuous hike and had just gone swimming in a big pool under a waterfall; the eggs, slightly dented and squished, had traveled well as a snack.
“What’s the secret?” She sprinkled a little salt on the remainder of hers.
“Fresh eggs from happy chickens,” I said.
Olga, Svetlana and Nikita live in their little gulag in the corner of the yard, fed on table scraps and corn. They’re Black Giants, a breed I’d never heard of until I got “the girls” a year ago as frizzy teenagers. They had a brief period of yard freedom but quickly tore up my garden and had to be contained. Now they enhance our lives with rich tasty eggs, harmonious clucking, and regular production of the world’s best fertilizer, chicken poo.
Chicken poo is so powerful it has to be aged or diluted before it can be put on anything. Mixed with water it’s great for orchids, imitating the droppings of birds in the rainforest.
Black Giant eggs are brown. Such a flat and emotionless word to describe the tender pinkish, buttery leather buff, milky chocolate and golden toffee tan variety of them. When I pick them out of the nest I get a happy feeling. Going about my morning chores in my jammies, feet in my husband’s oversized boots, that egg in the pocket of my sweatshirt feels like treasure. No wonder there are fairy tales about eggs of gold. Each is just that exquisite.
My brother-in-law comes over once every six months and I give him a dozen; he said his breakfast ritual in the warm Maui air of his condo has become a regular part of sybaritic vacation richness. I tried to figure out how to send him a dozen in faraway California, but couldn’t figure out a way to get them there unbroken and unspoiled, so they remain a bi-annual delicacy.
Chickens are a big part of life in the Islands. They came over with Polynesians in their canoes and have been an asset to humans here ever since. A huge cockfighting subculture arrived from the Phillipines with the workers that came from those islands, and in the last 50 years has been adopted as a “local” pastime, with whole families participating in the breeding, raising, and training for that illegal bloodsport with its accompanying gambling. Just last month a bill was introduced to legalize cockfighting here, and I was relieved to see it die in committee though there was a surprising amount of support for it.
On any given day on our school campuses I walk outside and shoo wild chickens away from the cafeteria, a popular gathering place for all sorts of fowl. Training a recent transplant counselor from the Mainland, I gestured to the chickens happily kicking up dust under the banana trees outside the cafeteria doors.
“A little local culture.”
“What? Nobody’s catching and eating those?” She’s from the South. Apparently we aren’t the only place where chickens are popular.