You may be wondering if I have written an entire column about deviled eggs this Easter season. Indeed, I have.
Twice a year, and pretty much every year since I was a teenager, it has been my job to make a platter of deviled eggs and stuffed celery for our family’s Easter and Thanksgiving dinners.
Way back when, in her immaculate South Buffalo kitchen, my beloved paternal grandmother and namesake – Mary Nicotera – taught me how to make these tasty delights. And though for many, many years I’ve happily made and presented them with pride, lately I’ve begun to gently hint that I’m waiting for the next generation to take over. Alas, so far my hints have fallen on deaf ears.
The funny thing about deviled eggs and stuffed celery is that the mere mention of them can cause an extreme reaction. People either really love them, or they cower in disgust. A Facebook or Twitter photo of my finished presentation, carefully garnished with black olives and a sprinkle of paprika, brings an immediate and enthusiastic reaction – for the most part, “Yum!” but sometimes, “Yuck!”
Even funnier is the fact that the youngest of our family are now the first to devour the eggs, barely giving their “Aunt MeMe” the chance to place the platter on the coffee table. And by the way, I’ve targeted the 11-year-old twins as my secret succession plan.
The celery preparation is the easier part. But the eggs have been a source of frustration, and have elicited many mild profanities through the years. Well-meaning friends and relatives have offered me sage advice on the best way to boil and peel those dastardly eggs. I’ve tried many of their tactics. Use very fresh eggs. Don’t use very fresh eggs. Cool the eggs. Don’t cool the eggs. I even bought that silly as-seen-on-TV “Eggstractor.” It was an epic and embarrassing fail. I’m convinced you need skill, luck and divine intervention to tackle this maddening task.
Thank goodness the egg stuffing camouflages the minor peeling imperfections. But, ooh that fabulous sensation and sheer sense of ecstasy when, on occasion, the shell cleanly and effortlessly falls away to reveal a perfect oval egg. Like that rare fabulous shot in golf, it’s what keeps me going.
About 20 years ago, I found a very cool Italian-made hand-painted rectangular egg platter that holds 18 eggs around the outside and has a large center that fits a healthy number of stuffed celery. This platter has served me and my family well through the years and proven impossible to replace.
It sports a few chips now, so I’ve searched high and low, in person and online, for a platter with similar capacity. I even tried to commission a pottery artist at a craft show, and she made two attempts without success. I feel I have no choice but to consider this a sign that the platter isn’t meant to be replaced. Each chip symbolizes another tummy satisfied.
So, on and on I go. The Easter or Thanksgiving parade provides the background ambience as I’m cleaning, cutting and stuffing the celery. Then boiling and cursing and peeling and cursing and arranging and admiring the eggs.
Ultimately, and despite the pains those dang eggs give me, I smile with a happy heart as the platter’s contents are voraciously devoured and another little chip marks the memory.