Devil’s in the Details – Deviled Eggs

Devilled eggs. A staple at my family’s picnics. A 1950s joke. A modern canvas for fine herbs and expensive vinegar.

bordallo_pinheiro_rabbit_green_deviled_egg_plate_P0000144771S0027T2From boiling the eggs properly to prevent the olive green ring on the yolk, to preventing the tear of a fragile white, mashing the chalky yellow into something palatable, all which will convey into your throat on the slickness of the white, little fat bombs sliding into home base.

My family recipe is much more of the 1950s bent. Mayo, mustard, ketchup (just a little for tang, lest the yellow yolk filling turn orange) salt & pepper, and secret ingredient, sweet pickle juice.

Forbidden City, 1943. What’s on the Menu? New York Public Library.

Devilled or Deviled? Devilled eggs in 1901 aren’t restaurant food. A quick check of the What’s on the Menu? Project at NYPL finds only one reference to deviled eggs (with two “l”s), and that on a catering menu from the Baily Catering Company in 1901. It’s more likely you’d get devilled sardines on toast, at five references. But deviled with one “l” yields more results – interestingly, for deviled egg sandwiches, served in the 1940s. Known in France as ouefs mimosa, there were no references for that term in the What’s on the Menu? Project.

Ann Treistman recently wrote a book Who Put the Devil in Deviled Eggs? The Fascinating Storied Behind America’s Favorite Foods that reveals the centuries old tradition of spicing and stuffing the yolks of hard boiled eggs. However, my family’s deviled egg roots more likely stem from this recipe from the 1870 Cassell’s Dictionary of Cooking:

Photo: Google Books

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.