There was a time in a previous life when you’d find me at the theatre at least twice if not three times a week. In another life, I played darts on Wednesdays and cribbage on Sundays – religiously. In yet another, I was always on a golf course. I find my entertainment in my environment, in what’s on offer. Eggs have been taking up a lot of my time lately. Not because we have chickens or are even thinking about getting chickens. In a drive to be as self-sustainable as possible, chickens might be an obvious choice, but if I have my own eggs, then I won’t buy eggs from my village néni. It’s all well and good me not having to shell out 50 forints for an egg, but if I’m taking that income from her, I suspect my eggs would have a bitter taste.
We used to get eggs from her-next-door. Three boxes of 10 would land on the doorstep at random intervals. Eggs aren’t sold by the dozen here. I’ve only recently joined the yolks and realised the root of the village’s preoccupation with bundling eggs in 30s. There are 30 eggs to a tray, 10 to a box. With so much home baking, eggs were traditionally sold in trays of 30 and for some, it’s stuck. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’ve been told.
Anyway, when the eggs would land, I’d have to bake. There are only two of us and getting through 30 eggs was quite the challenge. Occasionally I’d ask for eggs and expect to pay for them. But she’d refuse. The payment. Not the eggs. And then I’d bake for her. And we got into this never-ending give-and-take cycle. It’s a strange thing here, this unwillingness to be beholden. The concept of neighbourliness doesn’t seem to have caught on. Don’t get me wrong. People are more than happy to help but if you help back, then there has to be some sort of payment. [mmmm… now that I say it, I think it’s going that way a little in Ireland, too.]
Last week, she mentioned that her strimmer was broken. I mentioned it to himself so when he was doing our ditch, he did hers, too. The next morning, 30 eggs landed on the doorstep. It took him five minutes. Those eggs cost 1500 ft. That’s far from an equal trade. But it is what it is. We had a right barney one time she asked me to drive her to the nearest town. I had to go at some stage that week anyway and one day was as good as the next. She had four stops to make. No problem. When we got back, she went to pay for my petrol. I explained that I had to go anyway, with or without her. She insisted. I refused. She insisted. I refused. It was on the point of getting physical, her pushing money into my bag when I refused to open the boot and give her her groceries until she put her money away. All this was happening in Hungarian so I can’t really be sure if she said that she’d a good mind to call my mother and tell her how difficult I was being.
I’m all for the whole ‘when in Rome’ stuff, but sometimes enough is enough.
Anyway, one day I was out front when my néni lady from mass passed by on her walk. She asked me if I’d like something fresh. I didn’t quite get the something but I said yes anyway. How bad could it be? Eggsactly. She told me to leave my gate open the next day and she’d be up at 10 am. In she came with 30 eggs. And I paid her. I’m now on her roster – every second Sunday after mass. If I miss my window then I usually have to give a couple of days notice for the hens to catch up.
I’ve been sneaking past next door with my eggs each Sunday, hoping she won’t find out that I’m buying elsewhere. I couldn’t deal with the drama. And, truth be told, the paid-for eggs are nicer.
Or are they?
It happened that the day her-next-door left over the 30 eggs, I’d just bought 20 myself. That’s 50 eggs in the house. Sunday morning, at breakfast, we had a taste test. The lovely CJ was down for the weekend so I fried up four eggs, two of each, and had them do a blind tasting. It turns out that both preferred the white of one (texture) and the yolk of the other (colour). It was all rather exciting.
This is what passes for entertainment these days and I’m grateful for it.
The other morning, I was leaving early to go somewhere. When I went to open the gate, who was chatting to her-next-door but my egg néni. I must have looked guilty as all git out. Without thinking, I greeted them both by name which made her-next-door wonder how we knew each other. I could only hope that she’d say we’d met at mass.