The 30th of May used to be called Decoration Day and was a time for putting flowers on the graves of those who had died in service to the country. From its inception immediately after the Civil War up to Vietnam, it inspired thoughts of bravery and sacrifice coupled with despair that we continue to war with each other.
Frederick Moore Vinson: “Wars are not acts of God. They are caused by man, by man-made institutions, by the way in which man has organized his society. What man has made, man can change.”
In 1971, when, by an act of Congress, Memorial Day went from the 30th of May to the last Monday in May, the day lost much of its solemnity. Politicians will make speeches, of course, and flags will be placed on graves in our national cemeteries, but let’s face it: for most of us, it’s the first three-day holiday of summer and we will spend more time reading the ads for holiday bargain specials than reflecting on the original reason we get an extra day off.
Still, the day marks other, more frivolous traditions, too.
Memorial Day also signals the beginning of picnics and patio parties and for me, deviled eggs and fresh tomatoes are the taste of summer meals under the trees. You do have a deviled egg platter, don’t you? I myself have only one but many of my friends have three or four, depending on the occasion.
I'm no gourmet cook, but I usually get high marks for my deviled eggs. First thing to remember is that “hard-boiled” doesn’t mean “boil till they’re tough.” You want the yolks barely firm and the whites still tender. Too long on high heat destroys the egg’s delicacy.
● So! Put one layer of eggs in a saucepan. Cover with water an extra inch deep. Cover and bring the water to a quick rolling boil. Immediately remove the pan from heat, let the eggs sit 15 minutes, then transfer them to ice water so that the yolks won't darken. When they’re cool enough to handle, gently crack them all over and peel them in the water. The shells will slip off smoothly if the eggs are at least a week old.
● Slice in half and tip the yolks into a flat bowl.
● Hollow out the whites until they are an even thickness all around, like the sides of a canoe. Add the trimmings to your yolks.
● Give the white “canoes” a light sprinkle of salt.
● Mash the yolks and trimmings with the tines of a fork until they are almost a paste.
● Add mayo and a dab of mustard and continue mashing till the yolks are smooth and creamy. Proportions will vary according to taste.
● Add a little freshly-ground pepper and a dash of celery seeds. Mix well.
● Fill the egg-white canoes generously. I myself would never sprinkle paprika over those fresh golden orbs, but if you like the look, go ahead. I'll avert my eyes.
Like potato salad, deviled eggs are best eaten soon after making and before they have to be refrigerated.
And if you’re picnicking outside this weekend, pause to give a thought as to why you have this three-day weekend.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich: “With the tears a Land hath shed / Their graves should ever be green.”