Sunday, March 24, 2013

eggy art

decorating and coloring eggs for easter was a really, really big deal growing up in my family of origin.  we wouldn't just do a dozen or two; no, it was at least four dozen.  or was it six?  (don't correct me, dad, this is my story!)  anyway, my brother, mom, and dad and i loved to decorate using wax crayons and vivid food colors and especially loved to crack them, greek-style ('cause we're greek, you know, with my dad having been born under the shadow of mount olympus and all) and mostly loved to eat lots and lots of hard-boiled eggs, either plain or in egg salad.

since having my own children, we don't color quite so many eggs, perhaps because there are fewer of us in the household who enjoy eating eggs all day every day until they are gone (like me), but we do still color them.  over the years we have brought others in to do it with us, particularly our friends who were raised in faiths which didn't participate in egg coloring or cracking or consumption during this time of year.  you're very welcome, my converted friends.

some things don't change.  we always use piping hot water (very carefully around little children, of course) and plenty of white vinegar to have the best color-fastness.  we always let our refrigerated hard-boiled eggs come to room temperature first, so they don't sweat.  we always at least try to remember to purchase our eggs plenty of time in advance, as "old" eggs are much easier to peel than fresher ones (otherwise i swear silently to myself at the kitchen sink as i peel infinitesimally tiny bits of shell off in a vain effort to prevent my egg salad from being crunchy.  the only crunch allowed in mine is from pickles, thankyouverymuch.)

we have expanded (not abandoned) tradition by experimenting with dyes made from natural materials, like onion skins, orange peel, spices, and berries.  yes, for the people who have accused me of becoming more "crunchy" since moving to california, i have been influenced by native culture, but i assure you, i was well on my way in that direction for a long time beforehand.  it's just easier to do it out here 'cause people don't look at me quite so funny.

i remember the cups we used to use at my parents' house.  teacups on their saucers, to catch the spills.  not that spills ever happened, mind you, because we were so very, very neat when submerging the eggs into the liquid concoctions that dad had poured so very, very carefully and we very, very gently checked the eggs and lifted them out with the special wire egg-lifters from the paas coloring kit box that we kept and used year after year even though we switched to food coloring rather than the kits.

we used our own teacups and saucers for a while, then switched to clear plastic cups because it was fun to see the eggs inside and we could (mostly) keep the kids from climbing onto the table to see the colors.

i remember one of my favorite parts was watching the colored liquid swirl and mix together as i ran the faucet and emptied the cups, one by one, into the sink and down the drain.

pretty, but not quite the same effect as colors-mother-nature-never-intended-for-eggs

we've also expanded our repertoire, blowing the eggs first and then decorating them so that we can preserve the art for longer.  strangely enough, i cannot find photos for these, but if i have time (ha!) i'll take pictures of the ones we kept and post them.

there are the egg geodes, a la martha stewart.  no, we didn't use the fancy, expensive egg dye, but did still achieve some pretty spectacular effects with alum purchased from the spice section of our local grocery store.

and we used straight pins to fasten sequins onto egg-shaped styrofoam.

this year will be different, as i am trying really hard to focus on putting things into boxes for the big move, rather than taking them out.  fortunately, i have all of our holiday materials in labeled bins (the most organized part of my household is in storage), so i could get out our spring-y decorations.  definitely less than what we have for fall and nothing like what we have for all the winter holidays we celebrate.  i think most of what i do for spring is edible.  or i just look outside to see what's emerging and growing.

we'll likely color eggs at a friend's house.  but beyond that, i don't think we'll be doing much of our eggy thing.  next year, when we are well-settled into our home in virginia, i'll send the kids out to hang plastic eggs on the trees like my mom (still does?), i may fashion our own indoor display like martha did for our fancy eggs, and i might finally indulge myself with the tools for pysanky.

until then, i hope you are inspired to create something egg-themed for this time of year.  maybe you'd be willing to share it with me, too.  or, better yet, bring over your own colored eggs after easter and i'll show you our proper technique for greek egg cracking and how to be entirely unsportsmanlike about the results.

p.s. maybe next year someone will get me one of these.  or, better yet, i'll make it myself with diana, since she's a budding chocolatier, having handmade some of her original "chocodots" for and with her friends.

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