Not as involved with ornamental or mechanical detailing of eggs as the artists mentioned in the story at right is a second group of egg hobbyists that we'll call egg painters. They can be any age, from the little nursery school tot dipping his first Easter egg in a primary food color to retired artists painting intricate patterns and scenes onto different eggs.
For the Easter festivities, most people just like to tint their eggs plain, from pastels to brilliant or bold colors. This year Suhail Shabbar, chef-owner of the Crown Room Family Restaurant in Manteca, Calif., will beat everyone for cooking and dyeing the greatest number of eggs in a day. The eggs were prepared for the world's largest Easter Egg Hunt held last weekend in the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton.
Thousands of people attended the festival, including hundreds of handicapped children that were bused to the area. In 24 hours (March 25 to 26) the young chef, aided by the Kiwanis Club of Manteca, hard-cooked 97,200 eggs, using 11 burners, and colored them all in pools of food dyes. The goal was to break the existing Guinness World Record of 72,000 held by a Texas group.
Ethnic Easter egg painters opt for more complex treatment as required in the dazzling Ukrainian eggs called pyzanki . The process involves drawing traditional symbols and patterns, waxing, dyeing and melting to expose the intricate design. Fortunately, Ukrainian egg kits are now available. For ordering information call Maid of Scandinavia's toll-free number at 800-328-6722.
Merl Sellens' preferred egg-coloring strategy is natural dyeing, a European tradition that dates back many centuries. The retired building inspector from Santa Maria became interested in the art when his daughter, Jane Atwater, gave him 45 goose eggshells for Father's Day in 1979, with information on the dyeing and etching technique.
The source of nature's palette of colors is unlimited, he said. The oldest and most popular is onion skins, juxtaposing and marbleizing orange and brown tones. "I started with these, then went on to strong orange pekoe tea, coffee, eucalyptus bark and walnut hulls, which result in various shades of brown," Sellens said. He recommends getting friendlier with your produce man so he can save you onion skins and outer red cabbage leaves."
For other color sources growing around, he said, "Red cabbage leaves and Concord grapes will give you a blue to an almost black tone while orange marigold blossoms produce a light green. Cochineal (a South American insect that feeds on cactus leaves) is dried and pulverized to produce a bright red. So does Brazil wood. My latest discovery is that the poinsettia plant, which provides green dye."
Sellens finds enjoyment and unusual success with his leaf prints, using carrot leaves, red oak leaves or anything with nice patterns. "This technique is done by placing a blown eggshell on an upside down 6-ounce Dixie cup so it won't roll off," he explained, "a wet leaf is placed on the wet egg, then bound on the shell with a piece of wet nylon hose by stretching it out, then coming over the shell and twisting it tight with a twist tie. The shells are submerged in the dye bath from two to 48 hours."
If you don't have the time or the artistic gift to decorate from scratch, you can always turn to the latest egg decorating kits. We did; our best "shell show-offs" were the glitter-filled marbled eggs made with Dudley's Sparkle Eggs kit from Spearhead Industries.
On the following pages are some other ideas for brightening up Easter eggs.
BLOWN-OUT EGG SHELLS
Wash and dry each egg. Make tiny hole in small end of egg by piercing 2 or 3 times with darning or regular needle. Sterilize needle if using insides of egg. Pierce large end 3 or 4 times, making larger hole than in small end. Stick needle down inside egg and move it around to make sure both membranes and yolk are broken.
Blow from small end to large end, letting contents flow into cup or bowl. If egg doesn't flow out easily, move needle around inside shell again to be sure membranes are broken. Shaking egg may help, too.
Rinse shell in cold water and let dry. Handle shells carefully when decorating as they are quite fragile.
Place eggs in single layer in saucepan. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above eggs. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove from burner to prevent further boiling. Let eggs stand covered, 15 to 17 minutes for large eggs. Adjust time up or down by about 3 minutes for each size larger or smaller.
Immediately run cold water over eggs or put them in ice water until completely cooled. To remove shell, crackle it by tapping gently all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell, then peel, starting at large end. Hold egg under running cold water or dip in bowl of water to help ease off shell.
MARBLED EASTER EGGS OR FAUX EGGS