The year I spent studying sandouri in Greece, I was invited by Clio H., a friend of my sister’s, to spend Easter with her family out in Kifissia, one of Athens’ poshest suburbs. I was thrilled not to be spending Easter alone, so I went out of my way to show my gratitude by bringing Clio’s mother Easter eggs, κουλουράκια (a special type of Greek Easter cookie), and a ricotta pie (Joe’s aunt’s recipe). When I showed up at their door laden with treats, she was amazed. When I told her I had dyed the Easter eggs using onion skins and red poppies that I had gathered from the slopes of the Acropolis, she was astounded, looked at me intently for a second, and then exclaimed, “Τι νοικοκύρης!” (Ti ni-ko-KY-ris) which means, “What a homemaker!”
All I could do was laugh. I guess the young Greek men in Mrs. H’s family didn’t go out of their way to dye Easter eggs and bake. I wanted to explain to her that I was gay and it was normal for a gay man to do such things, but I didn’t want to embarrass her. Instead I simply thanked her for inviting me. The truth is, I was really touched by her effusiveness.
That was the first time I dyed eggs using red onion skins. I still can’t believe that it worked, since I kind of winged it. I’ve done it every year since. The only year it didn’t work was the year I dyed the eggs at my parents’ house in Lynn. For some reason the dye didn’t take, and my mother had to throw in a tablet of the store-bought red dye she typically used. I was bummed because I had been bragging about how nice my eggs had turned out the previous year.
In case you were wondering, Greeks traditionally dye their Easter eggs red, no pastels. The red eggs are meant to symbolize Christ’s blood. Easter eggs, as everyone knows, are a pre-Christian fertility symbol. Thus, red Easter eggs are a wonderful example of the synchretism that is so common within the Christian tradition.
Tonight, it was touch and go for a while. For some reason the dye took a really long time to set. The first batch of eggs took forever to color. They came out splotchy too. And I broke a lot of eggs. I think this is the last year I’m going to use white eggs. They’re too damn delicate. I’ve known for a while that brown eggs dye just as nicely as white eggs, but I always end up buying white eggs anyway. No more.
In the end, this year’s eggs turned out quite nice, notwithstanding all the breakage and the initial stubbornness of the dye. I think that I probably didn’t use enough vinegar. I used only about a cup and you really need to add two cups. I’ll try to remember that next year. In total, I’ve got just under four dozen eggs. The prettiest ones will go out on the table. For me, that means the ones with the most uniform color, but Joe really likes the splotchy speckled ones, so I’ll include a few just for him.