Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Candling Eggs

Many people like to have eggs delivered to them from local farmers, because they are more likely to buy fresh eggs. It is rare to find local eggs for sale in grocery stores and supermarkets, so the freshness of the eggs that consumers purchase is questionable.

After my grandmother sold her farm in 1945, she usually bought eggs from Finney’s Store in Leando, a couple blocks from where she lived. Most of these eggs were purchased from local farmers, then sold to the public.

I enjoyed the experience whenever my grandmother sent me to the store and eggs was written on the shopping list. Buyers had the option of choosing a carton containing a dozen eggs, or we could “candle” the eggs before we made our purchase. Once I was shown how to candle, I was fascinated by the process and always insisted on performing the task.

According to Wickipedia, the free Internet dictionary, “candling” is a method used in embryology to study the growth and development of an embryo inside an egg. The method uses a bright light source behind the egg to show details through the shell, and is so called because the original sources of light used were candles.

When we candled eggs at Finney’s Store, the hope was that we would not find an embryo inside the egg. A cardboard box was used, which was about the size of a shoe box. One box end had a hole just large enough to insert part of an egg. The other end of the box was open, and inside was a 40-watt light bulb, which supplied the light source necessary to see inside the shell.

If even the slightest speck was detected inside the egg, it was placed in a discard crate and the “bad” eggs became feed for someone’s hogs. Failure to candle the eggs properly at the store could result in cracking open an egg at home that was rotten, bloody or contained a chicken embryo.

Candling eggs in a store before purchase is now unheard of, and no longer necessary. It is just one of many pleasant memories of the past.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick