Today I was genuinely surprised by the outcome of my experiment. It’s Easter Sunday, a day when you can legitimately eat chocolate for breakfast. Or, if you live on the Welsh Borders, ‘a yard of toasted cheese’.
Anyhow, today I have been Pace-egging, the traditional Easter Sunday pastime of decorating eggs. Not to be confused with Pace-egging, the traditional Easter Sunday pastime of performing mumming plays (uneaten Pace-eggs would be given to the acting troupe). Pace comes from the Latin, Pacha, meaning Easter, hence the capitalisation. Before many other decorating methods became popular, one traditional way was to dye Pace-eggs by wrapping them in onion skins and boiling them. So that’s what I did.
I was worried that as my eggs were already a lovely colour, the dye wouldn’t really show up, but given there was nothing to be done, I cracked on. Next I had a choice, hardboil the eggs during dying, or blow them beforehand, dye the empty shell and risk witches stealing them to make boats. Seeing as I’m keeping all my creations throughout the project, I factored in the smell or rotting eggs and prepared to blow.
To blow an egg you have to prick a hole in the top of the shell, and a slightly larger one in the bottom (although neither of the holes need to be particularly big). To make blowing easier, stick in a toothpick in to muddle the yolk. Then oust the innards by blowing through the bigger hole. I used a straw, which did make for trickiness, but I didn’t fancy lip/shell action. As I blew, the egg white dangled out the bottom, and swung like a child’s bogey before plopping into the bowl. Although it didn’t take that much effort to get the egg out, I was rather pleased my lungs were back to full capacity. Empty egg shells just feel wrong.
Then comes the wrapping and securing of the skins. Which frankly felt Sisyphean at times. The skins were slippery and kept cracking, and even though I chose onions the same size as the eggs for the second batch, the whole process felt much more difficult than it needed to be. The first egg was dressed in red onion skins and I slipped some dying orchid flowers underneath for added design (that’s all I had). The second was mostly wrapped in brown onion skins. As my brown onions refused to shuck easily, the egg ended up a patchwork of red and brown skins with a pinch of lavender buds thrown in.
When the water was boiled, I gingerly lowered the eggs into the pan, convinced the rolling water would undo all my wrapping. But instead the eggs just bobbed. I had a small panic. Pressing them into the water with the back of a wooden spoon, I attempted to re-weight them with the liquid, but they were having none of that. So in the end I basted them and left them alone to boil for 30mins enveloped in weird lavender egg smell.
So wrong eggs, shoddy wrapping, and unsubmerged dying all led me to believe my chances of success to be limited. But by crikey they were pretty when they emerged. Rubbing them with a drop of olive oil and polishing them brought out the shine. I was kind of amazed. So I had some chocolate to celebrate.
No new developments, only bushiness.
The Onion Update
Still nothing going on in the world of alliums.
My Pace-eggs are now sitting in shot glasses on the window sill. Mitts off, witches. Happy Easter!
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books