Thursday, April 21, 2011

To Dye For

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to work for the PAAS Easter Egg Co. For 125years these folks have been helping people make a mess at their kitchen tables. Except for some busy weeks right before Easter, the PAAS employees seem to have it pretty easy. An attractive salary and benefit package would certainly make this a job to dye for.

While conducting extensive research I stumbled across the PAAS company website. There I learned that once upon a time a Mr. Townley of Newark, N. J.conducted experiments in his drug store. At the end of the 19th century he had created some products for use around the house. One of those creations was a recipe to color Easter eggs. People could purchase his packets of dye tablets for a nickel. With “five cheerful colors” to choose from, anyone could become a member of the House of Faberge.

Mr. Townley named his business the PAAS Dye Company. According to the company’s website, “The name PAAS comes from ‘Passen,’ the word that his Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors used for Easter.”

“Messy,” is the word that comes to mind whenever I sit down to color eggs. My mother, a former 1st grade teacher, was used to little kids making a mess, so I suspect that her five children didn’t present her with any new challenges. But even now when I get pressured to dye eggs I put on an apron and surround myself with yesterday’s news.

The smell of vinegar, the stirring sound of metal spoons scratching ceramic bowls, and the sight of white eggs waiting to be discolored put me in that “holiday mood.” My colored eggs always stand out and are usually the first ones chosen for egg salad sandwiches.

I want to remind people that I am not colorblind (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but my “signature,” color design for Easter eggs is a predictable somber look. I have taken Mr. Townley’s “five cheerful colors,” and combined them into one or two “mournful casts.” Instead of bright, pastel colors usually associated with Easter, mine, with their gray quality, may be more suitable for Good Friday.

In addition to being a teacher, Mom was also an artist, so her decorated eggs were always nice to look at, but it was Rhonda’s mother who really shined in this area. She would take a normal egg, magically empty out the insides with a couple small holes and transform it into a family heirloom.

She would use tiny brushes to paint beautiful birds and flowers on them. She even taught Rhonda and Jennifer how to do this. She did not however waste any time on me. Even when she had lost the use of her right hand she picked up the brush with her left hand and continued to create masterpieces.

Recognizing that my skills may lie elsewhere, I have concentrated my efforts on becoming an expert egg hider. I have a lot of experience in finding eggs, so naturally I would know how to hide them.

We have raised chickens for fun and no profit for almost two decades, and in all that time we have not been able to train the chickens into laying the eggs directly into the cartons. So to gather the eggs one must be smarter than the chicken.

Usually the chickens lay the eggs in the nesting boxes, which give the hens a strategic advantage for pecking your hands when you come for the eggs. But once in a while you have to go on an egg hunt. I have spent many an hour close to the ground looking for the elusive egg.

From time to time we have Araucana chickens, a breed that lays eggs with blue/green shells. I have considered substituting those eggs for my own dyed eggs, but that seems wrong, especially at Easter. For at Easter, we are reminded that God thought us worthy to die for.

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