The “Egg in Box” Interview

Egg in a Box, a site run by two Chinese-food-loving sisters, has one aim: getting you to donate your leftover takeout rice to those in need. While Replate asks diners to simply leave their leftovers ‘out’ for the homeless, Egg in a Box prompts people to add a hard-boiled egg to the rice to make it more of a complete meal.

Sisters Molly and Anna figure that most folks receive too much rice with their orders and never end up eating it. So why not pass it along to those who will?

Molly and Anna were kind enough to answer some questions by e-mail:

How’d this idea come about?

eggbox.jpgWe were sitting at the kitchen table one night about two years ago, trying to concoct dinner out of leftovers in the fridge. As usual, we had about four extra boxes of rice from Chinese food takeout from the past few weeks. On a whim, we threw a couple of eggs into a skillet with the rice and some spices and voila: the idea dawned on us that adding eggs to leftover rice was a quick and easy route to a tasty and nutritious meal. We had always wanted to reuse our extra rice, so we realized that giving away the box with a hard-boiled egg inside might be just the thing.

This fall, after seeing several other projects that addressed similar food recycling issues, we felt a strong pull to put our idea into action with the hope that it would start new conversations about conservation and community dialogue. We then started the blog, which we soon turned into the website.

photo by massdistraction (via flickr)What made you think to throw a hard-boiled egg in the box of rice instead of something else?

Eggs are quick to cook, and hard-boiling them is easy and relatively sanitary. We like the tastiness, nutritious value, and economical aspect of eggs, as well as the fact that eggs last a relatively long time (at least a month when boiled). We were so seduced by the name Egg in a Box that we couldn’t look back, but we think that the egg is just the beginning. Absolutely, other foods can go in the box, and the project isn’t strictly for extra Chinese food.

Some people seem to “soup up” their Egg in a Box. What’s the most elaborate one you’ve seen or heard about?

The “Deviled Egg in a Box”: the original package is spiced up with a paprika, salt, pepper, mayo, and mustard blend, either mixed into the rice or on the side.

Would you advocate folks making Eggs in a Box for themselves or just to give to hungry people? Soon after we launched our website, people started asking us that same question–one person, in the discussion section of the site, even
calculated the calories saved by his eating an Egg in a Box vs. fast food, and the money that could be saved, in one year. His results were astonishing; one could really save a lot of money and gain health benefits from rice and eggs, while keeping cooking a quick and simple task. We believe that either way, for yourself or for another, Egg in a Box achieves its goal — making sure food isn’t wasted.

Are you just leaving these boxes around, Replate style, or do you hand them to people? If the former, how do you know what happens to the boxes? If the latter, what kind of feedback have you received from recipients?

We have tried several methods so far. For our first test runs, we wanted to see people’s reactions rather than leave them out (also, we hoped that they would actually be eaten if we saw to it that they got into people’s hands). It was a winter day in New York when we first went out and although the first two people we approached did not want to take food at all, we got a truly enthusiastic response from one man who practically shouted “Yeah!” and vigorously accepted the box.

Another woman seemed very interested in the box but had a stockpile already. I later took another box downtown with me with the hope of leaving it in the FoodBox on W. 14th Street & 6th Avenue (in New York), but ultimately decided against leaving it there because I worried that no one would find our concoction in that busy spot. That
could definitely change as FoodBox, we hope, expands. We actually do want places to drop off the boxes, so it would be ideal to team up with a project like FoodBox.

How often do you eat Chinese food?

We think of the Chinese food restaurant on the corner of our childhood block as our second kitchen, if that is any indication. It’s the first place we want to go when we get back into town, and the food we miss most when we’re away. I’d say on average, at least once a week, but if we let ourselves, we’d have it maybe 3x a week. The place we order from has these really Seinfeld-like moments, too, where the wait staff knows everything about your life from your phone number.

And does Egg in a Box have a special place in its heart for Egg Drop Soup?photo by ulterior epicure (via flickr)

We somehow skipped out on growing up on Chinese soups, but without a shred of doubt, Egg Drop Soup would be our soup of choice if we do take on that part of the cuisine. Actually, it should be the honorary soup of this project, and perhaps will be served at our launch banquet…

Does this strategy work best with traditional Chinese takeout containers or any of the newer styles? If newer, which ones?

It could work with, we think, any of the new styles, plastic or simple white flat box (we’ve seen this one often used for Thai food, for instance). There is something delightful about the traditional box, and it holds a spoon and napkin very well under the lid and/or metal handle, but really, anything goes. We think that a plastic spoon is the best and easiest utensil to give with an Egg in a Box, for that matter. And, although we obviously have a soft spot for Chinese food, we wholeheartedly believe that any kind of cuisine that comes with rice would be a perfect place to jump in, too.

The chicken or the egg–any insight into which came first?

If we’re talking about which one arrived first, it depends on the incline of the terrain, how fast the chicken can run, and whether the egg is hardboiled or not. Obviously, a hardboiled egg will roll faster downhill, but only a chicken can run uphill.

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