I was asked recently to relate some of the lessons I have learned living in Mexico. I think the questioner expected facts and figures, but I realized that I've learned to buy eggs.
You see, almost all Mexican grocery stores sell eggs by the kilo (2.25 pounds or about 15 eggs) and package them into plastic bags. While it’s easy to find eggs pre-packed into containers of a dozen these days, that’s not the way it was just a few years ago.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve gleaned from buying eggs:
I've learned to accept buying un-refrigerated eggs
I’ve discovered that the eggs that sit out on the counter in the corner mom-and-pop stores and large megastores are often fresher than their dated, stamped and Styrofoam-protected cousins languishing in their pristine cartons in the north of the border grocery store coolers.
Buying un-refrigerated eggs has shown me that I could accept conditions and customs different than those I'd always known—and not only survive but learn to appreciate the differences.
I've learned to buy eggs by weight instead of by the dozen
I usually buy half a kilo of eggs—that's just over a pound – 6-8 eggs, depending on size. I can also choose to buy just one, or maybe two eggs at a time as do some of my elderly and not well-to-do neighbors.
Still buying eggs by the kilo was a hard lesson to accept. After all, my north-of-the-border head said, “Everyone knows that eggs should come by the dozen.”
After a while I came to understand that just because I've only known one way to do something, that doesn't make it the only right way to do it. North of the border, we buy eggs by the dozen. In Mexico we buy them by the kilo. I finally realized that it doesn't really matter as long as we can buy eggs.
There’s also a price to pay for buying eggs by the dozen, pre-packed into protective cartons. The last time I checked, there was a $2-3 peso difference per dozen. That carton is costing consumers between 25-35 cents US—every time they buy 12 eggs!
Buying eggs the Mexico way has also become a lesson of gratitude for me. Now I always take a second to thank God for my blessings when I buy eggs. I'm thankful that I can afford to buy a half kilo, a kilo, a carton of 12 or a flat of 36 instead of carefully pondering if I can afford to buy one extra egg for tonight's supper.
I've learned how to carry eggs home in a plastic bag
Transporting eggs in a plastic bag is very different from carrying them home in a protective carton. This lesson forced me to learn a great deal of humility. Two four-year-old girls in my neighborhood can make it home from the corner store with their eggs in tact. Small bag boys—the same ones who put the rice and beans on top of my bananas and the milk carton on top of the fresh peaches know how to safely handle a plastic bag full of eggs.
As a reasonably intelligent woman, I was determined that I could also learn to accomplish this feat, thus only putting one more small plastic bag into the land fill instead of a Styrofoam box. (When I remember, I take my wire egg basket to the store and skip the plastic entirely.)
Here are some tips for carrying your eggs in a plastic bag:
- Tie the top of the bag closed—firmly but not tightly—you don't want to squeeze those "hen fruits."
- Do not carry the bag by the ends left after tying it shut. Not only is there not enough to hang on to, the weight of the eggs can crush the ones on the bottom.
- Carry the bag using two hands, if at all possible. Cradle the bag on the palm of one hand and steady it with the other.
Then I thought about the other rewarding lessons that await learning here. Just think – if we can learn these things just buying eggs, who knows how wise we may become watching, listening, thinking, and learning as we continue living at Lake Chapala.