⟨ Food ⟩

The gross things that you sometimes miss

Salted eggs

Text and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

由起子突然好想見媽媽。現在是晚上10時,從火車站往老家的最後一班公車在11時多開出,由這裡往火車站約需40分鐘,只要在15分鐘內離開,便能夠往老家跑一趟了。由起子默默盤算著。

連假前夕,由起子如常跟同事們身處居酒屋內,同事們聊得天花亂墜,她卻坐立難安。事實上,整個六月她都坐立難安,每天醒來便網上追看香港遊行的新聞。她曾隨父母於香港居住了十數年,那些年覺得香港又熱又吵,人又急燥,決定回國時除了捨不得朋友,她並沒有太多的婉惜,但每當香港發生任何大是大非的事件時,才發現自己對這小城如此魂牽夢縈。她看遍綱上的影片,看著二百萬個黑點在築成的前行緩慢的河流,她想起在香港的那些年,也曾跟隨同學與朋友,參與7月1日的遊行,濕且悶熱的天氣,她跟大伙兒同樣穿著黑色的衣服,擠在人群之中,皮膚都黏答答的,不小心貼上來的皮膚也是黏答答的。對她來說,那次遊行更像是文化觀摩,香港人的熱,映照出她的冷,她猛然發現自己對於現世的種種何等的漠不關心。

六月以後,由起子於上班時間上洗手間的次數變得頻繁了,而且每次總不自覺地待上十數分鐘。她帶著電話,坐在馬桶之上,不住刷各個臉書專頁。這幾天看到的都是血流披面的情景,守護人民的人面目猙獰,與背後政權對抗的則疲憊卻堅壯。走出洗手間,回到辨公室,正好午飯時間,見同事們都笑意盈盈頓感彷如隔世。獨自到便利店買三文治的路上,處於天氣依然微涼、依然井然有序的街道裡,她竟有不身今夕何夕之感。明明是隔岸觀火,她卻感到被火燒得灼痛。由起子哪個地方都投入不了,不管是她身處的世界,還是她心繫的世界。她有她連結世界的方式,她把香港報上的新聞,簡略地翻譯成日語,在Twitter發放,雖然她的Follower只有百多人。常說雞蛋打高牆,她覺得自己這雞蛋是亂擲的,但她積滿腔的情緒,不擲出甚麼便難以平伏,即使明知道,她擲的,大概不會擊中任何人。

由起子喝了一口已經回溫變暖的啤酒,思考著該以甚麼借口提早離開。「香港最近很亂啊。」身旁的前輩突然跟她說。

「是呢。」由起子苦笑著說。她有點錯愕,心想前輩可能是看她一直在發呆,知道她曾在港居住過,便提出這話題。她積了滿腔難以梳理的鬱悶待紓,卻隱約感到這話題不適合置於同事聯誼的場境裡。社會政治議題只會掃大家的興,何況這議題是關於異國的。

「你要點些吃的嗎?」前輩遞來了餐單。

「謝謝您,但不需要了。很抱歉我得趕回家,剛收到同居男友的電話,他忘了帶鑰匙。怎麼這麼大意呢⋯⋯」由起子擠出一臉歉疚的表情,跟大伙道歉後便匆匆離開。

往老家的公車上,由起子給陽太發了個短訊,說她今晚到老家過夜,陽太只回了她一個表情符號。由起子覺得這表情符號真像平常的陽太,她說任何關於異國事的意見,他總是微笑以對。他不知怎樣回應,而她不知怎樣說明。

由起子打開老家門的時候,已近深夜12時了,客廳卻仍亮著白光。媽媽在茶几上架了一枱平板電腦,面對著它,抽抽噎噎,似乎沒注意到背後的門聲,直到由起子喊了一聲:媽,她才忽然回過神來。

「你也太突然了吧,而且怎麼這麼晚才過來。」媽媽急急忙忙地用手腕擦了擦眼角,又倒抽了一下鼻水。

「你又在看韓劇啊。」由起子瞄了一下電腦,到廚房倒了杯水。

「我以前都沒管你看漫畫,你現在居然管我看電視啊。」媽媽說罷逕自哈哈大笑,見由起子木目表情就收起笑容來。她把電腦關上,走到由起子身邊,狠狠打了一下她的屁股。「還沒吃飯,對不對?」

「媽這色鬼。」由起子撫著屁股,嘟噥著。被媽媽問起,才想到晚上放進肚子的,只有一些枝豆跟一杯暖啤酒而已,便說:「還沒吃。」

「我做了好東西啊,要不要試試看?」媽媽說著,得意洋洋地打開冰箱,取出一個雞蛋。

「雞蛋?」

「咸!蛋!」見由起子一臉意外,媽媽更沾沾自喜了。

「你不是說生雞蛋拿去醃,很噁心嗎?」

「有時還是會想念噁心的東西呀。」媽媽說著,把咸蛋放進鍋裡蒸:「上個月突然好想吃,這邊又買不到,便看Youtube學。」

由起子坐在茶几前,喝著即沖的味噌湯,嚼著在電鍋裡已保溫了一整天的白飯,蒸熟好的咸蛋被砌起兩半,蛋黃泛著油光。媽媽沒問她突然回家的原因,注意力又回到平板電腦上。

由起子把咸蛋的蛋黃送進嘴裡,那似曾相識的咸香味道在她口裡擴散,腦內浮現出密密麻麻的架空招牌的街景,她想起那些年她跟媽媽常去的一家蛇羹店,由起子總點叉燒飯,額外多加一個咸蛋,她不敢吃蛇。

「媽媽你有看香港的新聞嗎?」由起子猶豫著,終於問出口了。

「你也有看?天啊,太亂了!」媽媽把劇集按停了,深深地嘆了一口氣,又伸手擦掉眼角的淚水。由起子不知道那滴眼淚,是為虛構的劇情而流,還是為比虛構更荒謬的現實而流。

由起子沒料到媽媽的反應,一時之間說不出話來,兩人沉默了良久。「媽,咸蛋好咸啊。」

「你傻了?咸蛋當然是咸的呀。我很仔細地跟著食譜計算鹽水的比較呢。」媽媽回過神來,咬了一口由起子遞來的咸蛋白,立時瞪大了眼。「真的好咸啊!」說著又哈哈大笑起來。「一定是我邊醃邊流淚了!你吃的不是咸蛋,是我的淚水!」

聽罷,由起子也為媽媽的胡扯忍唆不禁了。

Yukiko was all of a sudden thinking of her mother. It was 10 at night. The last coach to her hometown departs at slightly after 11pm, and it would take Yukiko around 40 minutes to get to the bus station. If she managed to leave in 15 minutes, she would be able to make a visit to her family. Yukiko was quietly considering this option.
 

The night before the long vacation, Yukiko was hanging out with her colleagues in an izakaya as usual. While everyone else was having a good time chatting, she was feeling agitated. In fact, she had been feeling upset for the whole of June, where she had spent every morning following the news of the Hong Kong protests. Yukiko once followed her parents to move to Hong Kong and had stayed there for over ten years. During those years, she just found the city too hot and crowded, the pace of life was also too tense for her. She did miss her friends when she had to return to Japan, apart from that, she didn’t feel bad about having to leave. To her surprise, she feels so concerned every time of hearing big news about Hong Kong. Yukiko then realized that she is actually more connected to this metropolis than she thought. Watching numerous videos of the 2 million people moving slowly on the street like a black river flowing, she remembered when she participated in one of the 1 July marches with classmates and friends during her stay in Hong Kong. The day was humid and hot as usual, everyone was wearing a black t-shirt, with sticky skins rubbing against each other in the crowd. She treated that experience more as a cultural observation than protesting. She seemed to be so cold and distant when compared to the enthusiasm of the Hong Kong people, it was only until then did she know she was indifferent to most of the current affairs. 
 

Ever since the start of June, Yukiko started to go to the bathroom more frequently during work hours. She would spend over ten minutes there, sitting on the toilet scrolling Facebook to check updates of the Hong Kong situation. She saw so many photos of people’s faces covered with blood and the monstrous faces of those who are supposed to be protecting the people. Protestors who are fighting against the political power are exhausted yet strong. It was already lunchtime when she stepped out of the bathroom and returned to her seat. The cheerfulness of her colleagues made her feel so misplaced. She walked alone to the convenient store to grab a sandwich. Walking on the organized and dustless streets in the slightly chilly weather, she suddenly had no idea where she was. Regardless of the physical distance, Yukiko could feel so vividly the frustration of the people in the faraway place. She had simply lost track of her life, be it the world she’s physically in or the world she cares so much about, she could not focus on living her life. She did her part to spread the word by briefly translating the Hong Kong news into Japanese and shared them on Twitter, even though she had only around 100 followers on Twitter. To put herself in the famous quote of Murakami, Yukiko saw herself as aimlessly throwing eggs against a high wall. But with the strong emotion accumulating, she had to do something without caring too much of the actual outcome.
 

Yukiko took a sip of the beer that had already gone warm while trying to excuse herself to leave early from the gathering. “Hong Kong is rather chaotic recently,” a senior colleague suddenly said to her.
 

“Indeed,” she replied with a wry smile. She was surprised to see this conversation coming. Perhaps he brought this up seeing she wasn’t in a good mood and knowing she had once resided in Hong Kong. There was a lot of thoughts stuck in her mind that she wanted to express, but she knew it wouldn’t be a proper topic for a work party. Social and political discussions are always boring, not to mention this is the discussion about another country.

“Do you want to eat something?” Her colleague asked while passing her the menu.

“Thanks, I’m good. Sorry I have to go home now. My boyfriend just called and said he forgot to bring his keys. He’s so careless..” She tried to act apologetic and said goodbye to everyone.
 
On the coach to her hometown, Yukiko texted Hatuta to tell him that she would be staying with her mum for the night. All Hatuta replied was only an emoji. This was an expected reaction of him, as he always responds with a smile when she talks about things happening outside of Japan. He had no idea how to react, and she did not know how to explain.

It was almost midnight when she got home, but the living room was still brightly lit. Yukiko’s mother was sitting by the coffee table, looking at her laptop. She was apparently sobbing. She didn’t even know Yukiko was home and turned her head only when Yukiko greeted her.
 
“Why are you home all of a sudden? It’s already so late.” Her mum wiped tears with her hand and sniffed.

“Are you watching Korean drama again?” Yukiko took a glance at the computer, then went to the kitchen for a glass of water. 

“Did I ever complain about you reading manga? Now you want to stop me watching TV drama?” She said jokingly. Yukiko was too sad to laugh along. Seeing this, her mum stopped laughing and closed the computer. She went to Yukiko and slapped her butt, “You haven’t eaten anything, have you?”
 

“You really like slapping my butt,” she complained. After hearing her mum asking, she remembered all she has eaten was only some edamame and a glass of warm beer, so she said, “I haven’t eaten yet.”
 

“I’ve made something nice. Care to try?” She took out an egg from the fridge as she asked so. She looked so proud with the egg in her hand.

“Egg?”

“Salted egg!” Her mum was even more proud of her eggs when seeing Yukiko’s astonished reaction.

“Didn’t you find pickling raw eggs gross?”

“I do want gross things sometimes,” said mum as she brought the egg to steam. “I had a sudden crave last month. I couldn’t find any here, so I watched a YouTube video and learned to make it myself.”

Yukiko sat by the coffee table to have a bowl of instant miso soup along with rice that had been kept warm for the entire day. The steamed salted egg looked so shiny with oil from the egg yolk when sliced in half. Without asking why she came home, her mum returned to where she was and continued using her computer.

The salted egg yolk tasted so familiar, it brought back all the memories of the hanging signboards… She thought of the snake soup shop where she used to go with her mum. Her typical order was rice with barbecued pork and an extra salted egg. She always spared the snake, which was too scary to her. 

“Mum, did you see the news of Hong Kong?” She finally asked after hesitating for a while.
 
“You saw it too? It’s such a mess!” Her mum paused the video, took a deep breath, and wiped off her tears for one more time. Yukiko could not tell if the tears were from the fictional story she was watching or from the reality which is more absurd than fiction.

She was caught off guard by her mum’s reaction and didn’t know what to say. Silence took over until she said, “Mum, the salted egg is so salty.”
 

“Don’t be nonsense, salted eggs are supposed to be salty. I followed the recipe closely to measure the ingredients.” Mum took a bite of the egg white Yukiko passed to her; she was also surprised by the taste, “Wow, it’s so salty!” She laughed and said, “I must be crying when preparing the eggs! It was my tears that made them so salty!”
 

Listening to her mum’s silly joke, Yukiko finally laughed along.

.

咸蛋

工具:容量 2L 的密封玻璃瓶

材料:雞蛋 15顆、酒(酒精濃度約40%)

醃料:清水 700 毫升、鹽 175克、月桂葉 5 片、玉桂 1 枝

做法:

  1.  將玻璃瓶用滾水消毒,風乾;
  2. 醃料煮滾,至鹽全溶化,放涼備用;
  3. 雞蛋洗淨,用酒逐個抺淨消毒,並用紙巾抺乾;
  4. 雞蛋放進瓶裡,倒入放涼了的醃料;
  5. 若雞蛋浮起,於上面放一個小碟子,將至壓進醃料裡;
  6. 蓋上玻璃瓶瓶蓋,置於陰涼處至少一個月;
  7. 一個月後取出一顆,煮熟試味,若咸味不足,可能再放幾天;
  8.  醃好的雞蛋,需自瓶中取出,用紙巾抺淨,儲存於冰箱裡,約能保存一個多月。

.

Salted eggs

Utensils:
2L Glass jar with an airtight lid

Ingredients:
15 eggs
Wine (40% alcohol content)

Brine:
700ml water
175g salt
5 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick

Steps:

  1. Rinse glass jar with hot water and set aside to dry.
  2. Bring brine ingredients to boil until salt melted completed. Set aside to cool slowly.
  3. Rinse eggs and wipe with wine. Dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Place eggs in the jar. Pour in the cooled brine.
  5. In case of eggs floating, place a saucer on top to have all eggs covered by the brine.
  6. Put the lid on and place the jar in a cool spot at room temperature for at least a month.
  7. Do a taste test after a month. Remove an egg from the brine to cook. If the egg is not salty enough, leave them in the brine for a few more days.
  8. Remove all eggs from the brine when ready. Wipe clean with kitchen paper and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.