Monday, April 25, 2011

Want: Colored Eggs

Our good Dr. Youman doesn’t get all worked up about religion in the Dictionary of Every-day Wants. The word God shows up in the text ten times, but most of these references are located either in a list of first names and their meanings or in the publisher’s back matter advertisements. Not a single Christian holiday is mentioned by name, even in terms of a holiday-specific recipe.

In the Household Miscellany section, Youman does prove himself not entirely without religious sentiment: he provides helpful strategies for fixing squeaky boots, to avoid embarrassment when entering a church after services have begun. Today’s entry on coloring eggs may be another example of religion creeping into the Dictionary.

The tradition of dying eggs for Easter came to America with immigrants from Germany in the eighteenth century. It’s hard to imagine what an egg boiled for an hour might have tasted like, but with the exception of some labor-saving Paas products, the general principles haven’t changed much. Even the trick of using wax to protect certain parts of the egg from color is still common. (In my day, the wax came in crayon form, which sounds a lot tidier than the melted beeswax version.)

Of course, there are folks out there still doing things the old-fashioned way: foodie style, step-by-step style, and scientific style.