How to Eat Balut? A Cultural Exchange in Virginia Beach

What does eating balut and playing cornhole have in common? Nothing really, it’s just culture. In this video  you will see how and why the two connect when I was in Virginia Beach for 6 months training for a firefighter EMS Course:

Click to Watch Video

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A few days into EMT-B school, our American classmates invited us to a barbeque at a place called Red Wing Park. It was a cookout intended for them to know us better. One of my companions, Jose which you will see in the video wearing glasses, had a brilliant idea to challenge our classmates to a balut eating contest. Balut is a Filipino delicacy which is a hard-boiled fertilized duck egg. Our American friends were aware of it through shows like Fear Factor and Amazing Race. Finding one in the United States was already a stretch but luckily, one of the Filipino families in Virginia Beach knows exactly where to get one.

The video started with us playing cornhole (about 37 seconds of it). We actually played a tournament. Each Filipino delegate had an American to be paired with. Winner was Jonathan, the one in sunglasses, and Shook, the tall guy eating a balut (the one who quipped “fingernail”). It was a fun lawn game that we thought was just a way for Americans to pass time. But we got surprised to find out that it was actually a serious game with a ladderized national competition. Of course, we never heard of it until then. And we were glad that they shared it with us.

When it got to a point where drinks were involved, (Thank God for Moonshine!) Jose brought out the big guns. Buying balut got him late in the game so you wouldn’t see him playing cornhole. He bought it at a store called Delicate Oriental down in Town Center. When he brought the balut, everyone’s reaction was a “Hell, No!”

Growing up in the Philippines, balut became a favorite among us because it’s cheap and readily available. As you grow up it’s a good source of calcium and protein. That’s important if you are like me doing bodybuilding. Of course, I never even thought of getting to the US as I have already conceded to the fact that I won’t be able to make it after USMLE. Nevertheless, I never thought of bringing my culture there. Well, it happened at that historic moment when for the first time Filipino firefighters were enrolled in the gruelling Tidewater Fire Program. We weren’t observers nor were we just there to have the experience for a short time. We were there to be trained like US firefighters for 6 months. The whole experience was tough but this one of those moments when it was light. There’s not a great many light moments during the Academy.

At Red Wing Park, Bissell, a Navy Seal, had no problem eating the balut. He had tasted worse. He even told us about Afghanistan Foot Bread, also a delicious delicacy. He was the guy in the video telling the others that balut taste just like Duck Breast.

The others had a hard time swallowing balut. But they did it anyway for the sake of camaraderie. They saw us eating the balut and we had no problems so they gave it a shot and the responses were mixed and documented on the video. But still at the end of the day, we were glad to share our culture to this brave Americans who all decided not to give it another shot in the future. Well that’s what they say anyway. I mean, it is delicious ergo they will probably try it again.

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