The eggtraordinary connection | Deccan Herald
Think Easter and Easter eggs are instantly remembered: the ornate piece of edible history. Much like roast lamb, hot cross buns, Simnel cake, honey-glazed carrots and sweet potatoes, these hand-painted, hunted treats continue to remain an important part not only of Easter celebrations that mark the end of the month-long period of abstinence called Lent, but also its essence. The importance of the Easter egg for Easter celebrations can be assessed simply
looking at the different traditions that punctuate the day starting with the painting of the egg, the hiding place, the hunt and of course the gift.
In fact, every major transformation that has built Easter as we know and celebrate it today has to do with those eggs that were once an early spring treat. The story tells how people collected chicken eggs – and later chicken eggs – boiled them hard and stored them for distribution at Easter, which seasonally meant the onset of spring and an abundance of produce that l were accompanying. Interestingly, these hard-boiled eggs, known as resurrection eggs thanks to their association with the Spring Festival, were not only meant to be offered back then, they were also part of the sacred offering in the church and were paid to the lord as a tribute too.
Over the years, it was this latter tradition of offering eggs – both boiled and fresh – that gave way to the ritual of morning egg giving and, in doing so, not only raised the egg to become synonymous with Easter, a holiday that celebrates rebirth but has also vomited an industry that has worked to give the simple hard-boiled egg a worthy transformation. Whether painting and decorating eggs in the 13th century, many believe it was inspired by the Sumerians and Africans who painted and decorated ostrich eggs for their feasts; Victorian-era egg-shaped toys for children that started the tradition of surprise eggs; or Carl Fabergé’s priceless 19th century creations for the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia that transformed the humble egg into a work of art and luxury. However, the transformation that had the greatest impact on the relevance of Easter eggs was when these baked treats became edible, and by that I mean they could be devoured completely – eggs, shells, yolks and anything that could be stored inside. The first was around the 15th century when the senate of Lübeck in Germany faced a shortage of flour which was often used to make eggs for church offerings and ordered its bakers to make marzipan from the place. Thus began a tradition of gourmet Easter eggs which reached its peak around the 19th century when JS Fry & Sons of England dreamed up the chocolate egg. It was an instant hit. Chocolate, which until then had been a privilege of the wealthy and royals, turned out to be a proverbial nail in the coffin of boiled eggs when Cadbury made it commercial. It was in 1875, exactly two years after Fry
thought up and created the first chocolate Easter egg.
The advent of the chocolate Easter egg not only changed the way eggs were given – which until then had been eggs painted and then gold foiled or sent as a “seasonal gift” in a silver cage like c was the case from the Vatican to Henry VIII – and appreciated. but also does. While Cadbury’s first chocolate eggs were plain chocolate treats, over the years history has given baking experts the world over enough muses to play with the egg, which takes center stage. in the celebrations. From being the centerpiece where some of Fabergé’s masterpieces have been recreated to pay homage to Victorian-era egg-shaped toys where each beautifully painted egg would enclose an array of sweet treats and even a toy to Brilliant deceptive creations that would look like the traditional hard-boiled egg, only in this case it would be made of different kinds of chocolate and would be deliciously edible.
Natural hand-painted eggs continued to be part of the celebrations, but mainly as games popularized by Queen Victoria, who would rather love the tradition of gold leafing her morning Easter eggs and painted decorative eggs. by hand that have been scattered. around the lawn to find during the day. Edible eggs made from sweet flour, marzipan and later chocolate were reserved for the table. That was until Easter moved to hotels, where the egg was raised to this amazing work of art that came not only with the flair of surprises but also with wonder. No more eggs were just presented as eggs but had elements that were open to interpretation. Thanks to Auguste Escoffier, who popularized pastel-hued eggs, and later Alain Ducasse, Easter eggs took on a whole new meaning. Today, these thoughtful and exquisitely crafted masterpieces not only redefine how far edible art can travel to recreate a vision, but are also a statement.
Take for example Chef Ducasse’s version which presented the egg not just as an egg, but as a chocolate bunny containing a small almond praline egg. It was a tribute not only to Easter tradition, but also to the folkloric 17th century Osterhase, a German hare that lays eggs, and its association with the spring festival. Or, the Easter egg was created by local brand Faber, who used the egg to introduce the world to the fifth chocolate, the ruby. One of my personal favorites however remains the egg in a golden cage which took about a week to prepare with a small team of three artisans working on it for at least half a day, hand crafting every ornament that would adorn creation. Inspired by Fabergé masterpieces presented to Tsarina Catherine, the chocolate iteration was made of couverture chocolate and used fruit leather to represent the jewels embedded in the jeweled egg, while different types of chocolate were used to fill the two eggs which were placed inside each other.
The reason it became such a memorable creation was not that it was one of many more laborious Easter Eggs, but for the sheer number of techniques this iteration took to come to life – from the traditional practice of dyeing the egg into edible colors. which have been created from natural spices and flowers, for
experimenting with the Sumerian style of egg coloring using the spray brush technique to create foam and jelly shapes to give the finished egg a closeness to Fabergé work. In fact, most of the ornaments were handcrafted, including the foam pillow the Easter egg sat on. It was a few years ago. Since then, the interpretations have been numerous thanks to the different techniques that create edible earth, grass and even the theatricality of an eggshell cracking to reveal a surprise.
And yet, in doing so, there is a theme that even such elaborate eggs continue to uphold – that of starting from scratch and again, only in a delicious way. It’s no wonder, then, that eggs have remained an Easter staple – and will continue to do so.
(The author is a seasoned pastry chef.)