I’ve swallowed pills and tablets of every colour chemistry can conjure up.
I’ve swallowed gruesome liquids in colours that defy description.
I’ve swallowed food the wrong way.
I’ve swallowed my pride.
I’ve swallowed my words.
I’ve even swallowed a tall tale or two.
But I absolutely, totally, 100% refuse to swallow Bird’s Nest Soup.
Why? Because it is, literally, the nest of a species of the swift (Aerodramus fuciphagus). A swift is not the same as a swallow, but as the Chinese word for the swift and the swallow is yen (燕), I’m taking the liberty of dove-tailing the two.
Back to the nest. Yes, nest – a bird’s home for laying eggs and bringing up baby birds. This nest, unfortunately for this particular swift, is made of its saliva and shaped like if you cupped one hand, and sized about 8cm across.
The nests can be found high up in caves in parts of Malaysia, Thailand and even Bali. Once it was discovered that these nests were edible, hunters climbed up to pry the nests loose; if harvested before eggs are laid or hatched, they were clean and easy enough to prep for sale. Because it is a lucrative business, artificial nesting boxes are now used to farm even more nests.
It is believed that consuming the nests is good for health, beauty and longevity. Indeed, it is a delicacy served at auspicious occasions like birthdays and Mother’s Day. I’m not sure anyone realises the supreme irony of destroying a mother’s home in order to gift it to another mother.
Today, the nests can be bought in bottles and gift packs, ready-cooked in rock sugar, honey or any variation of sweet or savoury preparations. The biggest importers are said to be the US, China and Hong Kong, where a bowl of Bird’s Nest Soup can cost up to US$100.
I was offered this soup while on a tour in Thailand and did think it looked intriguing. It resembled a bowl of translucent jelly-like oatmeal. Then I asked what it was …
Nope, didn’t touch it then, and still not touching it now. It’s not the saliva that I find hard to swallow; it’s the fact that it’s somebody’s home.
DAILY PROMPT ~ SWALLOW