The Folklore Project
It Looks Delicious But I Couldn’t Eat Another Bite
By Jill Fogarty
Fall in the South launches a lot of Southern seasons. For sports fans, there is the weekend glory of football season. For the outdoorsy early bird, there is hunting season. Crafty types are staring down the calendar at the decorating extravaganza that is Thanksgiving and the subsequent holiday season. Whatever your preferred autumnal experience, there is one thing that every Southern Fall season has in common, and that is at some point people will gather to celebrate it with food. Therein lies the source of my Fall consternation, because Fall in the South heralds my least favorite feeding season of the year. It is time to suffer through another People Trying To Feed Me Eggs season.
That gene, the one that makes the Southerners I know enthusiastically line up to eat hard-boiled eggs and deviled eggs and fluffy piles of big cheesy egg brunch casseroles? I don’t have it. I have whatever the opposite of that gene is. Eggs make my lip curl and my nose wrinkle. I’m a native Georgia girl, born of two native Georgians, but when it comes to any kind of egg I am always the odd Southerner out. And by out, I mean out of the room because whenever I hear the tap, tap, tap of eggshell hitting a hard surface, I up and leave. That sound means someone is about to peel an egg and that means the whole house is about to smell like eggs and just the smell of them drives me crazy. The scene in the movie Cool Hand Luke, where Luke makes the bet he can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs in an hour? That scene gave me bad dreams. I can’t imagine many things worse than eating that many eggs ON PURPOSE. The only thing I can justify about it is that Luke is doing it for money, but there isn’t enough money in the world that would make me eat an egg. I’ll take plain old egg-free prison, thanks.
Southerners fling eggs into just about any dish. The Fall calendar is one minefield after another of long tables filled with platters that I have to surreptitiously examine before digging in. I’m not trying to be rude, but I really hate wasting food and if I accidentally get something eggy on my plate I have to put on a hazmat suit and throw the whole thing away. I once attended a Thanksgiving dinner at which chopped hard-boiled eggs had been added to literally every dish on the table except the actual turkey. Nothing escaped the egg fairy, not even the dressing and the gravy. THE GRAVY. I had never seen such, but egg lovers in the South are nothing if not indiscriminate. My internal screams were loud and wailing that day. I left hungry and pouted all the way to Waffle House, a place that has the good sense to leave the eggs out of my scattered-covered-and-smothered.
Idle perusal of my Southern Junior League cookbook collection reveals the enormity of what I am up against: recipes for shrimp salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs and seven layer salad with quartered hard-boiled eggs and tuna salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs. Why? Why must we egg up perfectly good food? My older cookbooks, the ones with the recipe submissions from Southern ladies who cooked up a storm in the 1930s and 40s, are full of very strange molded salads that make me eternally grateful to have been born into a post-aspic world. Reviewing all the recipes in which hard-boiled eggs are added to gelatin with the casual enthusiasm of throwing confetti at a parade makes me shudder. I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude to stare down a tower of wobbly protein packed with hard-boiled eggs, chopped broccoli, and mayonnaise (an actual recipe that I did not make up). I’m less “Steel Magnolia” than I am “Easily Nauseated Magnolia”.
All you egg-eaters? I see you. I just don’t understand you. I am delighted you are enjoying yourself, but I am mystified as to the reason. It’s like I am from a different, non-Southern planet. I watch you circle that deviled egg platter like a velociraptor after a seven-day juice cleanse. You can’t wait to eat those noxious little half-moons, while I am over here wondering if the bowl of rice was too close to the egg platter and picked up some of that egg taste because eggs are so pushy they fumigate everything that’s egg-adjacent. I always start at the egg section of the buffet and work my way outward. Sometimes I’m stuck with nothing on my plate but honeydew melon and a few melt-away mints.
Being a Southerner who does not like eggs is a funny little exile. Disliking a more controversial dish, like turnip greens, would garner instant sympathy. Instead, it’s a lifetime of getting strange looks when I ask if there are eggs in the potato salad. 99% of the time, the answer is a polite “Yes”, with the clear subtext “Of course there are eggs in the potato salad. We aren’t heathens, but clearly you were raised in a barn by wild dogs.” NO. I was not. I was indulged by my grandmother, who always made me my own batch of egg-free potato salad, and I am just waiting for the rest of you to follow her fine example. Until then, I will remain vigilant, keeping my solo watch for the ovoid invaders of the potluck table.
Happy Fall, y’all.