We call our decorated Easter eggs, the Polish eggs; As it was my Dad’s family’s tradition and manner of egg decorating that we have been practicing every Easter since I can remember.
It is a bit of an art form that has always been a highlight of our Easter celebrations, and now as we pass on the tradition and craft to our children, it has a new appeal that somehow intermingles nostalgia with newness, awe, and wonder. It’s funny how something that is so ingrained in the fabric of our lives as to feel simple or routine takes on a new meaning and appeal as we take it to the next generation.
My parents, my brothers, their wives (who are also my dearest friends), and all our children gathered at my house on Saturday for some egg fellowship.
I didn’t think to take but two pictures on Saturday (duh-this is a common problem for me) but fortunately I was able to scramble a couple up from my sweet Brianna. So basically the premise is this:
- We use heated paraffin wax and the head of a stick pin to create designs on the eggs. The eggs range in their elaborateness, and one interesting technique we use that gives the egg dimension is to create the design in layers with the dye.
- So, as we begin creating a design on the egg when it is white, then every place that the wax touches will seal in the white color.
- Now we choose our first color to dye the egg (let’s say yellow), and after we take it out continue with the wax design, at this point sealing in the yellow color.
- Next, keeping in mind what color you get when you mix colors, you can choose to dye the egg again. If you put it in orange dye, then the egg turns a pretty shade of light orange (what you get when you mix yellow and orange), and now your design has elements that are white and yellow on top of the orange background. The egg toward the top right in the basket was done this way.
- As you can see in the basket, by layering the design and the dye color choices, you can get quite a mix of effects – these particular eggs were created by sweet peoples ranging from age 2 to 68, encompassing our most novice decorator and our most experienced!
As you can see in the picture, we heat the paraffin wax in little disposable pans (until it is liquid); And we stick the sharp end of a stick pin into the eraser of a pencil, and the head of the stick pin is dipped into the wax.
My Dad’s rule of thumb is to hold the pin in the wax for a count of, one potato, two potato, and then make your stroke of wax on the egg. It dries quickly, so all designs are a series of small lines, dashes, and dots.
It’s also nice to have paper towels handy in order to dry the eggs off between colorings (exhibit A, the smattering of crumpled paper towels all over my counter).
I asked my dad today if our egg tradition is an old school Polish tradition, and he said it may actually encompass many Eastern European countries. He is not sure if his grandparents made the polish eggs as well, or if his parents learned the craft in NYC where they met, at a Polish-American Club. He also mentioned that CBS Sunday Morning did a special on “Ukrainian Eggs” on Easter Sunday. So we are definitely not the only ones!
So, heading down another more dietitianly (I don’t think that is a word just for the record) path, isn’t it interesting how almost everything , social and fun, comes back to food! I can tell you that we did not decorate Easter eggs (at the non-mealtime of 3:30 in the afternoon) without partaking in some snacks…and broken eggs anyway. Eating is just part of togetherness and that makes me happy.
But let’s talk about eggs for a second! Eggs really do have so many virtues. They got a bad rap for a while because of the cholesterol content in their yolks…enter egg substitute, recipe modification, and down times for the mighty egg L. So I think it is important to reinstate the egg’s reputation.
We are such complex beings that the idea of villinizing or all-hailing one particular food item as “the answer” is pretty silly. And it is hard to corroborate even in research because people are so complex and there are so many variables that come into play…very difficult to account for them all.
That being said, while eggs do have a substantial amount of cholesterol in them, it is important to note that cholesterol is not a villain either. Our body makes cholesterol and it is useful for many biological processes.
SATURATED FAT AND TRANS-FAT
Research also suggests that things like saturated fats and trans-fats in foods play more of a role in negatively affecting our serum cholesterol levels than do the cholesterol in foods. While high fat meats and full fat dairy products are high in saturated fat…eggs are not.
BRANCH CHAIN AMINO ACIDS
What eggs are high in is PROTEIN (6 grams per egg), and not just any old protein either. Eggs happen to have three of the 20 amino acids (that make up a complete protein) called the branch chain amino acids (BCAA) – specifically leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential amino acids, which means that our body cannot make them, therefore we must get them in our diet in order for our body to create and use protein.
Even the conservative recommendations regarding egg consumption, based on many batches of research, consider the consumption of one egg per day is safe.
Eggs are delicious, easy to eat, have a plethora of way to use them in recipes, and have some stellar nutritional qualities. So, if you like them, don’t be afraid to include them as part of a well-rounded diet!