Ham and Eggs

Eggs Dyed with Onion Skins

Omne vivum ex ovo.

“All life comes from an egg.”
–Latin Proverb–

Eggs and Easter go together like…ham and eggs?

Well, it hasn’t always been that way. Christians first celebrated Easter in the second century A.D. and the Council of Nicaea, convened in 325 A.D. by the Emperor Constantine, set the official date for Easter. According to the English historian, the Venerable Bede (circa 672-735 A.D.), the name “Easter” originated with the name of the ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. It is uncertain whether or not eggs figured in celebrations made in her honor.

According to experts, it is certain that celebrants colored and ate eggs at spring festivals in other ancient cultures, especially those of Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome. So how did eggs become associated with the European celebration of Easter?  Nowhere in the history of Western civilization does any written record mention this egg-dyeing pracice before the Crusades of the fifteenth century. Crusaders returning home to Europe probably brought back this custom with them.

eggs-hard-boiledIn Europe, egg-dyeing, egg hunts, egg rolls, and egg fights became firmly associated with the celebration of Easter. Many different egg dishes evolved as part of the Easter celebration. For example, cooks made special efforts to collect eggs laid on Good Friday. Why?  If the eggs were cooked on Easter, they would promote crop fertility and protect the lives of those who ate the eggs.

However, the Puritanism of America’s early settlers precluded any pagan-like celebration of Easter. Not until the time of the American Civil War was there anything resembling European Easter customs in this country. The White House Easter Egg Roll and the annual family Easter egg hunt, two egg-related customs, infiltrated American culture at that time. Dyeing eggs at Easter became an American tradition as well.

Whether you dye your eggs with commercial dyes or go for the natural look with onion skins (yellow), beet juice (red), or birch leaves (green), you probably wonder what in the world to do with all those hard-cooked eggs tumbling out of Easter baskets on Easter Sunday. Be traditional with devilled eggs or try some of the following recipes from different cultures of the world, both Christian and non-Christian.

Throughout the Christian world, behind all the plastic Easter baskets, pastel cards, chocolate cream eggs, and media hype for live Easter bunnies, lies a very ancient idea:  springtime represents rebirth and renewal. And eggs continue to symbolize that perennial idea.

Ham?  That’s another story entirely.


Eggs are high in cholesterol, but provide protein of an excellent quality. In fact, the World Health Organization of the United Nations uses egg protein as a standard against which is measured the quality of protein in other foods. One hard-cooked large egg contains about 80 calories and 6 grams of protein. SAFETY NOTE:  For egg hunts, hide only uncracked eggs, keep the eggs refrigerated until the last minute, and refrigerate found eggs as soon as possible. Illness could occur with improperly handled eggs.

eggs-shrimp-spain1EGGS STUFFED WITH SHRIMP
Makes enough for 2
(From Spain)

1 ½ T. olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 ½ T. flour
2 T. dry white wine
1/3 cup clam juice or fish stock
½ lb. cooked and shelled shrimp, chopped
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved
Salt freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 T. minced parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sauté the onion in the oil in a small saucepan until onion is transparent. Stir in the flour; cook for a few seconds, stirring constantly. Add the liquids and stir in. Sauce is done when thickened. Set aside briefly.

In a small bowl, mix the chopped shrimp with the egg yolks, salt and pepper, and 2 T. of the sauce. Mix well. Fill the egg halves with the shrimp mixture and put them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover each egg half with some of the sauce and bake the eggs for about 10 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with the parsley.

Photo credit: Martin Bravenboer
Photo credit: Martin Bravenboer

Serves 4
(from Trinidad)

1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, mashed
3 T. peanut oil
1 T. ground almonds
1 t. chili powder
1 t. turmeric
½ t. ground coriander seeds
1/4 t. ground ginger
1 lb. can of puréed tomatoes
1/4 cup cream of coconut
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
1 T. cornstarch mixed with 2 T. water
8 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise
Chopped coriander leaf for garnish

In a small saucepan, sauté the onion in the oil until transparent. Add the garlic and the next five ingredients. Cook until browned, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Stir in the tomatoes, coconut, and bay leaf. Salt to taste, stir in the cornstarch, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add water if too thick.

Add the eggs and cook the curry five more minutes. Serve with rice or Indian-style flatbread (or use whole wheat flour tortillas), garnished with the coriander.

Photo credit: Colin Nederkoorn
Photo credit: Colin Nederkoorn

Serves 6-8
(Note:  “Fassi” means in the style of Fez, Morocco’s holy city.)

3 lbs. stewing meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
½ t. saffron
1 1/4 t. ground ginger
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
½ t. turmeric
½ cup coriander leaf (cilantro), minced
4 cinnamon sticks
1 cup grated onion
4 T. oil (Moroccans use butter)
½ pound almonds, blanched and left whole
2 T. oil
8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise

Put all the ingredients but the almonds, the eggs, and 2 T. of oil in a heavy-bottomed stew pan, cover ingredients with about 3 cups of water, and bring everything to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook for 2 hours or until meat is very tender. There should be only about 1 ½ cups of sauce in the pan. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

Fry the almonds in the 2 T. of oil until lightly golden, drain, and set aside. When the meat is done, arrange it on a serving dish and garnish with the almonds and the eggs. Serve with chunks of country-style bread and an orange salad.

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