Margaret MagatMay 26, 2021
Fertilized Eggs and the Making of Culinary Capital in the Filipino Diaspora
Bloomsbury Publishing 2019
Balut is a fertilized chicken or duck egg that is boiled at the seventeenth day and sold as a common street snack in the Philippines. While it is widely eaten in the Filipino community, balut is frequently used in eating “challenges” on American reality TV shows. At seventeen days, the balut egg already contains a partially developed embryo, and this aspect is sensationalized with exaggerated “performances of disgust” during these challenges.
In her book Balut: Fertilized Eggs and the Making of Culinary Capital in the Filipino Diaspora (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), Dr. Margaret Magat explores balut as a site of culinary nationalism and identity-making, and its rise in the American consciousness. First, Dr. Magat describes how to eat balut and sip the warm broth inside the egg. In the Philippines, balut vendors sell them in the evening or early morning as snacks at malls, transportation hubs, markets, and just about everywhere. However, Americans were primarily introduced to balut via reality tv shows where contestants were “challenged” to eat it. Dr. Magat explains that like many foods of Asian immigrants, balut was decontextualized and framed through a lens of disgust in these eating “challenges.” But in response, Filipino communities sponsored balut-eating contests that promoted balut with more cultural context and pride in Filipino heritage and identity. More recently, balut has become culinary capital for foodies and celebrity chefs to gain recognition and status as someone with broad tastes. Lastly, we raise the issue of authenticity and its dangers in calling balut an authentic food of the Philippines but as also having an “authenticating” ability to signify membership of a group.
Dr. Margaret Magat an Asian American folklorist based in Sacramento, CA. Her research focuses on the folk practices of the Filipino diaspora.
Nancy Yan received her PhD in folklore from The Ohio State University and taught First Year Writing, Comparative Studies, and Asian American studies for several years before returning to organizing work.