Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul channels his father to teach his nephew about the gringo Ugliest Easter Egg competition.
This weekend, I had to take matters into my own “gringo” hands to teach my three year-old nephew a lesson in dying Easter Eggs. With much of Chef’s family visiting from Mexico for the holiday, it had come to my attention that little Miguelito—born and raised in Boston—had never been exposed to the American tradition of the hard-boiled egg dye. Mexicans, it seems, don’t partake in this odd pagan ritual.
“No gringo nephew of mine is going to be at a disadvantage in preschool if I can help it!” I declared.
The Washington Heights Key Foods grocery store was not helpful in my mission. Where were the large displays of special Paz Easter Egg dying kits complete with just-add-vinegar-dye-tablets, stickers and a package that double as a drying rack? Evidently, the major groups that make up the population of my ‘hood—Dominicans and Orthodox Jews (understandably)—don’t participate in this tradition either. I was directed to purchase some regular food coloring and do-it-myself.
Back at home, Chef nearly had a stroke when I started boiling the run-of-the-mill, antibiotic and hormone filled pure white eggs rather than the brown, earthy crunchy huevos from Whole Foods.
“We’re not eating those are we?” he asked.
“Of course! After we hide them a few dozen times, then I make them into egg salad to serve with brunch. That’s the Texas way.”
My sister-in-law Laura, Miguelito’s mother, helped me pour capfuls of vinegar and conjure up colors mixing the food dye. Since she grew up in Monterrey, Mexico—which sort of looks like Houston—she was more familiar with my gringo ways and helped me defend the practice to my horrified in-laws.
That is, until I began mixing the liquids together creating a murky mixture that looked like toxic sledge.
“Anyone can make a pretty egg,” I explained. “But in the Buchmeyer house there was a special prize for the Ugliest Easter Egg. My father, of course, was the Judge of the competition.”
As I dunked a white egg in the toxic sledge turning it an uncomfortable shade of gray, I reminisced about the time I hatched the perfect winning plan. When I was seven, I escaped to my room with an egg and actually painted it black using fountain ink. When I returned to the kitchen in triumph—sure that a black egg would win the coveted prize—my entire family gasped.
“Why Paul, that’s the prettiest, shiniest egg I’ve ever seen. You lose!” my father shouted.
Chef came to the table to offer a hand to Laura and Miguelito while I kept perfecting my entry into this year’s competition.
“This year, you’ve won. That egg looks like it belongs in Frida’s bowl,” Chef said.
And so, the Buchmeyer Gringo spirit lives on.