Nothing Paltry About This Poulry

A basket of ostrich eggs.
They’re priced at $20 and $30.

If you discount the pterodactyl as the biggest flying creature to have traversed our skies, then the ostrich would be the largest bird we know. As a tween, I’d seen them in the wild, in the dust-swept Swazi savanna.

This flock of pencil-necked birds ambled with poise across the narrow African country road, their heads lowered, as if in humility. Our gleaming white Ford Cortina halted deferentially, to allow them passage.

They crossed my path, once again, much later.

The sight of shiny off-white ovals, the size of a rugby ball, in a posh farmer’s market in Manhattan caught my attention. Drawn to them by their sheer dimension, M. and I threaded through the crowds of holiday shoppers to the booth where I’d seen them to investigate.

On a handwoven basket, lay half a dozen ostrich eggs, solid, sturdy, and confident. Their finely pitted surfaces, pronounced by a light sheen, made them a tactile delight. Three pounds in weight and eight times the area of a hen egg, there’s nothing paltry about this poultry. Their shells pose a formidable resistance to cracking, I hear, needing the aid of a hammer.

I don’t have the heart to make one into an omelet. A few days earlier, though, we’d bought a pack of half a dozen duck eggs, on a whim, and deviled them.

Though only slightly bigger than regular chicken eggs, the duck eggs felt sturdier. The yolk, denser, offered resistance to scooping, clinging to the inner membrane of the matte shell with a strong grip. In taste, it was creamier and smoother.

If eggs could represent the solar system, then ostrich eggs would represent Jupiter; chicken eggs, the Earth; and quail eggs, the Moon. Duck eggs would stand in for Mars.

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