Harvesters: Collecting Food-Grade Urine

Food

While other cities enjoy the pungent smells of blossoming flowers in the springtime, the stench of pee permeates the air in the city of Dongyang, China. For generations, Chinese people have prepared so-called "virgin eggs" (tong zi dan) using urine from boys under 10. The snack is thought to brace eaters for a change in seasons.

Virgin eggs are also believed to provide nourishment and resistance to illnesses as it helps reduce body heat, circulate blood better and reinvigorate the body. To prepare this spring delicacy, vendors provide primary schools with tubs and pails in which schoolchildren may relieve themselves. This practice is apparently so entrenched in the community that teachers go along with it. At the end of each school day, the containers full of urine are collected and chicken's eggs are soaked and boiled in the stuff. Once the eggs are fully cooked, they are removed and cracked individually before being put back in to simmer, to really let the pee-taste penetrate. This process takes an entire day and results the eggs sell for twice the price of a regular hard-boiled egg. Despite being a tradition in Dongyang, no one really knows why urine is used rather than tea (as is done in most parts of China). Advocates insist that only a virgin boy's purity can endow these eggs with magical nutritional qualities, so much so that in 2008, the local government listed the food as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

 

Writer KC Hong is from a long, long line of Chinese people. Thankfully, her grandparents decided to settle in Malaysia. At the age of 3, she was sent off to school because her parents couldn’t stand her chattiness. But after years of being a full-time Asian, she is finally rebelling and embracing that chatty kid. You may find this part-time Asian writing, doodling or getting lost.

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