The Battle for Balut. A War of Words? Or a Difference in Taste?

Stef over at Stefoodie has some bones to pick with me regarding my balut post.

If you haven't read her POV on balut, please do so before reading my rebuttal below.


Please, call me Eddie.

Mr. Lin makes me sound like an indicted House majority leader.

I'd like to address what seems to be your main grievance regarding my post which is employing the phrase "Egg of Darkness" as a description for balut. Contrary to what you believe, the "Egg of Darkness" in my article has nothing to do with the spiritual, the religious or the ritualistic. Further, it doesn't have a thing to do with me being a pro-life advocate, which I didn't even realize I was until you pointed it out so convincingly. (What will I tell my pro-choice friends? I've been outted.)

The phrase "Egg of Darkness" is an homage to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" in which the protaganist through his harrowing journey up the Congo River comes face to face with his own fears and evils within himself. The parallel I was making to the novel was that the fear I have of balut was more a revelation of the irrational fears within myself when it comes to certain foods. The truth is my blog is partially dedicated to confronting my or other people's fears of certain foods.

So, Stef, the "Egg of Darkness" is simply not a slight against balut. It is a literary reference. Period.

Unfortunately, the real contention here, I suspect, is that you will not tolerate any commentary on balut which is less than glowing. This is a set up for disappointment. I don't enjoy everything I eat. Balut is only one among a few delicacies - including Chinese duck tongue - that I don't fully appreciate. My opinion is just that - an opinion. I have a right to it. Moreover, in the food blogosphere, there is no shortage of opinions, and very seldom do these opinions harmonize. I love chicken feet dim sum, but I don't expect everyone else to love chicken feet dim sum. In fact, I usually hope that the party I'm with won't go near the tin just so I can devour the entire serving myself.

Finally, it appears you also have major problems with the type of balut I was served and the manner in which I eat balut. I ate the balut I was given. I didn't get to choose it. There was no input on my part. So the blame must go on the restaurant and its balut vendor...if there's to be any blame at all.

But, as far as how I eat, well, you're going to have to blame Mama for that one.


Anonymous said…
No wonder, if it's true that she's fed you fish brain when you got sick of milk...

When are you going to write about "penne," huh?!
Juliet said…
I can see both of your points. I understood that you were confronting your own fears about eating balut. At the same time, I felt bad about commenting that it looked gross. I've always been open to trying new things, even if they did look kind of creepy to me. Food is certainly not something that can be judged by appearance.

As for chicken feet, it's a good thing you've never had dim sum with me, or there would be a war over who got the last one.
mmm...chicken feet...
Anonymous said…
Hello Eddie,

#1. Not everyone will have read Joseph Conrad. If you had meant for people to make that parallelism, you probably should have mentioned it in your post, or at least added a footnote.

#2. "You will not tolerate any commentary on balut which is less than glowing."

False. I know LOTS of people who don't eat balut or who have stopped eating balut. They are quite vocal about why. They have never offended me nor my sensibilities. Why? Because when they talk about it, there is no implied disrespect for anyone else who eats it, no reference to vampires, no emphasis on the hideous. They simply don't like it. Period.

#3. If you aren't sensationalizing, why do you need to have 3 posts on the same subject?

#4. "The blame must go on the restaurant and its balut vendor."

Fair enough. A responsible writer would have done more research though. A "derivation from a thesis" doesn't good research make. Sadly, this is what happens when studying secondary sources. A good researcher would find some primary sources as well to verify information.

#5. Your opinion is your opinion. ITA with you 100% on that and I heartily support your right to express it. My point is that there are FACTS out there that didn't factor into your opinion -- either because you were unaware of those facts, and/or you didn't bother to find out. I chose to present those facts that you missed so people can see an alternative viewpoint. Just to even out the playing field.

#6. One of the major points in my piece was cultural sensitivity. It seems you've missed it completely.

#7. I'm a busy wife and mom, and my plate is overflowing right now. So if you have any further questions/comments about this, and I don't respond, it's just because I have more important things to attend to. I'm sure there are other Filipino food bloggers who will be happy to help you out.

#8. I *love* chicken feet too. Lots of Filipinos do; we even have a pet name for it, "Adidas". Perhaps you could post a recipe sometime.
Svelte Rogue said…
way to go, stef!!!

i wanted to comment on the conrad allusion in the previous entry but his blurb was of some other person so i did not.

someone else might point out that the metonymy used in the heart of darkness extension to the egg of darkness is inappropriate or, in logical terms, fallacious. and it will also "boil" down to cultural insensitivity if you explore the extensions to its fullest extent.

so much for enlightenment of the ignorant. this seems almost like a hopeless case. the ipodcast is pathetic. really. you're casting pearls before swine, stef. no kidding.
Nic said…
Eddie, I really think that this is an excellent response. I am quite suprised that people seem to be so sensitive about balut, but I wholeheartedly agree with you, in that everyone has a right to their opinion.
And, for the record, I thought that the Heart of Darkness reference was a clever one, but of course I am a Conrad fan.
Eddie Lin said…

I got your penne.


I'm glad you see both sides but I still feel I am allowed to comment on whether something looks appetizing or not to me. And, frankly, it is a bit gruesome to ME. That's all I'm saying. Thanks for the comment as always.


Thanks for the healthy debate. I hope people can make up their own minds based on all of this.

Chicken feet aka Adidas is something I'd love to be able to cook but it's just so much easier to plop down at a dim sum house and order a table full of them. Now I'm hungry.

Svelte Rogue,

There really is nothing to say to you. You clearly have your opinion calcified. Moreover, it doesn't help your cause when you make personal attacks on someone else's blog.

Thanks, Nic.

All I have to say is: "The horror! The horror!"
Juliet said…
I just realized you thought I was referring to your comments about how it looks. I wasn't. I was referring to my own. Sorry about the confusion.
Eddie Lin said…

no worries. you are a sweetheart.


everyone's humor and creative license has been revoked. and, girlfriend, i don't mind sensationalism because that just makes me sensational *double zorro snap*!!! mhmmm!
elmomonster said…

Gosh...I had always thought that food blogging was immune to the types of personal attacks that you were subjected to...I mean, political blogs, yes...but food? Whowouldathunk?!

Keep writing Eddie...don't let this get to you.

BTW, you are welcome to dissect and go "sensationalist" on my native cuisine, Indonesian food, anytime.

It's even lower in popularity and acceptance in the U.S. than Filipino food.

If Filipino cuisine was the UPN Network, Indonesian cuisine would be PAX TV.
Anonymous said…
Come on! The thing looks digustingly gross and that's a FACT. It would be ridiculous and misleading (but very American PC) to tip toe around that sacred duck fetus with pretty words. Mr. Lin, thanks for your *uncensored* report which may actually get me to try one of those lovely babies!
Unknown said…
it's also a fact that we would never eat it like that, eddie and adrian.
Eddie Lin said…

Nice to have you join in on this balut rumble. I'd love to sensationize some Indonesian cuisine. Let me know if there's anything interesting.


You're more than welcome.


It is a fact that I was served THIS particular balut at a Filipino restaurant. So the fact is people DO eat this sort of balut.
Anonymous said…
WHO does not know and/or read Joseph Conrad?! Come on, Americans, try to use a little bit of that grey matter you got in your skull, turn off the TV and get some CULTURE!!! If you haven't read Conrad, than you should not be leaving irate and exaggerated comments on food blogs...In Europe Conrad is read in elementary school! And food is much more civil too, I must say...

And Dalian, food is VERY MUCH judged in appearance: why all these 3 star Michelin chefs go out of their way to present their dishes in a creative manner? Food concernes all sorts of senses, not just the palate: there's the eye, then there's the smell, the consistency, the taste, the after taste...
Anonymous said…
i've never read conrad (although i have heart of darkness at home) and i never leave irate or exaggerated comments on food blogs. although i find it the drama entertaining. i will get on it and read the book so i can join the fun.
Eddie Lin said…

i'll remind everyone to dust off their copies of "Heart of Darkness" and give it a read.


thanks for leaving a comment...irate, exaggerated or not.
Svelte Rogue said…
hey eddie, i am really sorry for the personal attacks. but i do hope that you got my point. i really wanted to get the idea across instead of leaving anyone with the impression that i am just out to malign your person. heck, i don't know anyone in here.

but the very first comment i posted, although laced in heavily connotative language (and i apologise for the personal bent the loaded words gave) still holds true. you can't, can't just use your talent for writing Carelessly because you do have a following of readers, these people Believe you without question, and what you did raise in that initial post (with the very clever insertion of a pinoy in the background!!!) was likely to inflame those who are in the know about balut.

and it is not about letting only favourable reviews get through, but fair and balanced ones. that is my main bone of contention, and when you package it in sensationalism (c'mon, hand that to me, you know what i meant), it is bound to get people in tickles just imagining how eeewww gross balut is instead of checking out the merits (dem, this is always the boring part, the intellectualising of an experience) of balut. and believe me, it has nothing to do with aswang, not to me, not to my circle of co-balut-eaters (we would eat two baluts before aikido training and one right after, three times a week, baby), and not to the others before me in my childhood who taught me how to eat it.

there is a way to eat it without a saucer, fork, or knife. you can eat it standing up in the middle of the street!!! no kidding, and it can be a whole lot of fun, i tell you.

just for ticklers, you might want to try 'penoy'. look it up, it's also an egg but without the chick inside. the OB-gyne of my mom told her years back, when she got pregnant at 48, that her egg in the womb was a 'penoy', meaning there was nothing inside and so had to be 'aborted'. you might enjoy that. check it out.
Eddie Lin said…
svelte rogue,

thanks. your point is taken.

i will try penoy if i can find it in LA or its environs.
Jdavies said…
the end is near convert to buddhism!
Miles said…
What a tempest in a balut pot!