June 21, 2005
Many months ago at a garage sale, my friend Fonda Paterson and I came across an old basket made of twigs, containing what appeared to be hollow eggs. The eggs were dark brown, as if they had been dyed in very strong coffee.The weird thing about them was that something inside rattled, as if the eggs contained a dried horse chestnut or a Brazil nut. With an eye for both treasures and bargains, Fonda bought the lot for $5 and reported the next day that one of the eggs, for they were definitely eggs, had a sizable hole in it and that the thing rattling inside was a dried out yolk.I spent the next few days on the Internet learning more than I ever wanted to know about eggs, but nowhere could I find reference to a method of drying out eggs so that the whites evaporated and the yolks ossified.The mysterious eggs were consigned to my mental computer’s bulging “unsolved” file, and there they sat until shortly before Easter when my daughter Hillery called from Leadville and said that she and her husband Bruce were experimenting with a very complex Ukranian egg-dyeing process.I remembered that Julie, my rehab instructor, had purchased a number of these eggs in Czechoslovakia, only to have them all destroyed by a neighbor’s dog. They are works of art involving wax, special dyes and specific tools to carve out the designs.The problem Hillery and Bruce were running into was that the eggs, having been blown, weren’t heavy enough to sink into the dyes, and she thought she’d remembered reading somewhere that the eggs should be dyed when whole and raw.Whole and raw? I typed “Ukranian eggs” and “Czechoslovakian eggs” into the computer and learned more than I cared to about the dyeing process, but less than I needed to know about drying them. While some instructions began with blowing the eggs, others said to use the eggs whole but did not advise what to do next. Dry them in a low-heat oven; put them in a dark, cool cellar?Julie said her eggs had been hollow and did not rattle.Hmmm.I decided to try my own experiment. I knew from bitter experience that raw eggs can go rotten in the shell. But what if I set aside an egg for a long time – might it not quietly dry out, leaving a petrified yolk?I took a raw egg and dipped it in warm, thick coffee. This gave it a mild tan but nothing like the dark brown of the eggs in the basket. I set the egg on its end on the mouth of a small flower vase and put it in a cupboard, where it could have all the time in the world to do its thing. A year, two – I was prepared to be patient.Should I have dipped it in wax? Should I have varnished it as some of the websites advised?After a couple of months, I was shocked to see that the egg was oozing. When I hastily threw it into the garbage disposal I was more shocked to smell that the egg was REEKING. The sulfuric Yampa Hot Springs had nothing on that egg! I tossed in half a cup of Dawn detergent and that experiment was over.So again I appeal to my knowledgeable readers. How do you dry an egg to make it like those rattling eggs at the garage sale? What’s the secret to keep the eggs from rotting? Su Lum is a longtime local who is in the book; or e-mail email@example.com (please put “eggs” in the message lest I delete you as junk mail). Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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