Stirring up memories
The deviled, you say
October 20, 2004
Over in Oxford, Mississippi every year
a bunch of folks get together to talk about food and the way we think about it,
the way it affects us, the way it plays a part in our history and our heritage. Naturally we always do a lot of tucking it
away as well. It’s one of my favorite outings
of the year to go to one of my favorite organization’s home—the Southern Foodways
You’re familiar with it. I proudly proclaim my membership at the end
of every column, because we in the Alliance
are all about stirring up memories.
This year’s meeting was particularly
touching—and touchy. For almost parts of
four days we discussed food, race and reconciliation. Tough moments and some
tender ones as we remembered and shared those hard times and good ones.
In this group especially, nothing
enhances sharing moments better than food.
We ate, ate and ate. Barbeque,
fried chicken, grits and grillades—and especially deviled eggs. Every year the Alliance has a recipe contest. Last year it was pimiento cheese. (I didn’t win that contest, but I’m in the
recipe book.) This year—deviled
eggs. Deviled eggs of every variety,
with pickles and without, with capers and vinegar, lemon juice and you just
name it. (About 120 folks entered the
competition, John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance speculated to
me. That’s lots of tasting, John T.!)
We had a chance to sample the
finalists at the fabulous Deviled Egg Degustation and Book Signing at Oxford’s Off Square
Books. We bought a lot of books and ate
a lot of eggs. For the crowd of hungry folks
they figured on 500 eggs!
was almost better than the last one, but I got fascinated with the fixing.
monumental task—deviling 500 eggs. Not
just deviling, but also boiling and peeling them. Melissa Hall (ably assisted by other
volunteers) stepped right up and put on the pot.
“Five hundred eggs!” I exclaimed.
“Actually, a thousand,” Melissa
countered. She went on to explain that
the grocery chain which procured the eggs did her, they thought, a special
favor and found some really fresh eggs.
They didn’t mention this to Melissa.
She cooked up all 500 according to her fail-safe method. Then the workers sat down to peel. And in the words of Julia Child, they had 500
“nonpeelers.” Eggs need to be at least a
week old, Melissa explained, if they are going to peel
easily. So, she had a big problem on her
hands. Well, more than one. About a thousand. How to get rid of 500 eggs and locate 500
more. Egg salad was not an option.
She offered the eggs around for quite
a while before she found a taker. You’ll
be happy know the residents of the Lafayette County Jail ate well that
week—lots of really fresh eggs.
Meanwhile, Melissa found more
not-quite-so-fresh eggs and fired up the pans again. Many of the entries specified a method of
boiling eggs, but Melissa swears by hers, and she shared it with me.
Place the eggs in room-temperature
water. Bring them, uncovered, to a
boil. Once a boil is reached,
immediately cover the eggs and turn off the heat. Leave the eggs covered for 10 minutes and
then drain. Give the pan a hearty shake
so that the egg shells crack, then immerse the eggs in cool water. Change the water repeatedly until the eggs
are completely cool. They are now ready
to peel. (Not to mention mash, season and stuff. Don’t say devil
to Melissa for a few days.)
The second time was a charm. The eggs were perfect and perfectly
All of the finalists were outstanding. I don’t know how this hungry crew managed to
get down all the fish at the fish fry that followed because they were eating
deviled eggs with both hands. Our favor
was the recipe of Elizabeth Williams from New
Orleans. Like most of us, her favorite deviled egg is
the one her grandmother made.
her entry she explained how her grandmother assimilated the flavors of her
birthplace, Sicily, into her American—and New Orleans—dishes. She had trouble, Elizabeth explains, understanding the concept
of deviling, so she referred to this treat as Devilish eggs. They are still a family favorite, and I can
understand that. They are going to
become a standard in our family.
Sicilian Devilish Eggs
12 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
3 anchovies, drained
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons minced black olives
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
smoked paprika, or minced basil or
parsley for garnish
each egg in half. Remove yolks and place them in a bowl. Add the anchovies. With the back of a large spoon mash the
anchovies and egg yolks together until the anchovies are fully
incorporated. Add the garlic, black
olives and lemon zest. Add the olive oil
a little at a time and mix thoroughly, beating until the mixture is thick. Add several drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix again.
Using a melon scoop, stuff the egg yolk mixture into the whites. Sprinkle with minced basil or parsley or
sprinkle with paprika.
If you want to see
the abundance of ways good cooks can fix deviled eggs, pay a visit to the egg
page at the Southern Foodways Alliance internet site. You could keep a flock of chickens busy for
Of course, you
will still think your grandmother’s or mother’s are the very best and if you’d
like to share her recipe, send it along.
to the Foodways Alliance. We also had a “Fried Chicken Throw Down” with
four chefs frying and serving their own specialties almost as fast as we could
eat them. It made me wonder who’s a
really good chicken fryer around these parts.
If you are a fried chicken expert or know of one, I’d love to get a
Post-script: Thanks to the Southern Foodways Alliance, John T. Edge,
Mary Beth Lasseter and Melissa Hall for all they did
and continue to do and for permission to use this recipe.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network