MOREHEAD CITY —
Writing for Our State magazine, Andrea Weigl asserts that in the South: “The deviled egg is revered. It’s both the symbol and the centerpiece for every covered-dish dinner or picnic you’ve ever attended.”
She has credentialed subject matter experts to back her up. One is Liz Williams, the director of the New Orleans-based Southern Food and Beverage Museum. When Williams turned 21, her mother marked her daughter’s adulthood by giving her a deviled egg plate and saying: “You can’t entertain without one of these.”
Debbie Moose, a food writer and author in Raleigh, shared her mother’s advice: “There are two things that a Southern woman always got for wedding presents: a hand-crank ice cream maker and a deviled egg plate.”
Susan Perry of Durham, an egg plate collector, told Weigl she gives egg plates as gifts to newborn girls because she believes all Southern women should have one. “Deviled eggs are the first thing to go at a party,” Perry says. “So, you better have an attractive empty plate.”
On assignment for History.com, Laura Schumm determined the origin of “modern-day deviled eggs — those classic creamy concoctions — dates back to ancient Rome.”
“Around 61 A.D., eggs were boiled, seasoned with spicy sauces and then typically served at the beginning of a meal as a first course,” Schumm reported.
“The first known printed mention of ‘devil’ as a culinary term appeared in Great Britain in 1786, in reference to dishes including hot ingredients or those that were highly seasoned. By 1800, ‘deviling’ described the process of making food spicy.
“But in some parts of the world,” Schumm said, deviled eggs are referred to as “mimosa eggs, stuffed eggs or dressed eggs.” She noted that “salad eggs” is the term frequently used at church functions in the United States to avoid any association with Satan.
According to Schumm, the classic version of deviled eggs is now widely considered to include a mixture of mashed up egg yolks and whites, mayonnaise and mustard, “but professional chefs and home cooks around the world have experimented with numerous variations on the filling, including the use of pickle relish (either dill or sweet), bacon, crab meat” … you name it. Add pepper and hot sauce, if you care and dare. A sprinkle of paprika on the top adds a splash of color. (Never nutmeg.)
Presentation is critical as well as practical. It requires an official deviled egg plate, platter or tray … especially useful when traveling, so the eggs sit tight in their “depressions” and don’t go sliding off onto the seat or the floor of the vehicle.
Diana Bulls, writing for Kings River Life Magazine in Reedley, Calif., said Duncan & Miller Glass Co. in Washington, Pa., most likely made the earliest egg plates in the 1930s.
Angela Huston, a columnist with Medina County (Ohio) Life, an online newsletter, observed: “Every time I make deviled eggs, I wonder ‘what were they thinking’? The ubiquitous ‘they’ is whoever designed the plate specifically for serving deviled eggs with 15 neat, little, oval-shaped slots.”
“Anyone who has ever fixed deviled eggs knows the eggs are cut in half; no matter how many eggs you cook, the final count will come out to an even number, and 15 is not an even number,” Hutson said.
“I have finally learned to stop fussing. Now, I just eat the darned extra egg, a necessary sacrifice to have peace of mind — and a properly balanced plate.”
Marie Lawrence of Morehead City may have the largest egg plate collection in the United States — 1,007 as of July 4, 2019. One of the fun things about egg plates, she said is that there is no uniformity in the number of depressions. Most common are the even numbers of 12, 18 and 24, however.
Lawrence said she has been collecting egg plates for about 20 years. They are colorful and come in a variety of shapes and sizes and many are hand painted. “Like flowers, they make you happy,” Lawrence said.
Bulls advised her readers: “You can find vintage egg plates in antique stores, at flea markets, thrift stores, garage sales … and at grandma’s house. Your family might have an heirloom deviled egg plate that makes its appearance at family gatherings — let the powers that be know you want to carry on the tradition — and get the egg plate.”