In Defense of the Egg

By Hyacinth Miles

There is probably no single food in the United States that is simultaneously as scorned and as loved as the devil egg. As each of the 50,000 (more or less) deviled egg pages on the internet note—somewhat defensively—deviled eggs are almost always the first thing to be eaten at any picnic. But then those same fifty thousand pages invariably make some crack about cocktail parties from the fifties. Frankly, it all smacks of hypocrisy.

Obviously The Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi, thinks so too. They are having a deviled egg competition and are actively seeking deviled egg recipes and vignettes.

“Let the world know about how your family reunions revolve around eating deviled yard eggs. Tell us about how your aunt piped her filling with a pastry bag.” Invites Mary Beth Hall of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the parent organization of the Southern Food Alliance.

You can send your entry (100 words or less) to

Your submission will be automatically posted in an online deviled egg diary that will appear at The winner of the competition will receive a free pass to the Southern Foodways Symposium held October 7-10. There they will get the chance to see the King and Queen of Deviled Eggs crowned at a deviled egg and champagne tasting.


I’ve never been to the Symposium, though I’m guessing that the food there will be some of the best you can get in the world. Be warned though, deviled eggs are a serious business.

“Please don’t dismiss our invitational as an exercise in camp nostalgia…No, we like our deviled eggs served absent the irony that informs much of what some call comfort food. And we resent the tendency to serve deviled eggs with a wink, a nod, and a sly smile of condescension.” Writes Ms. Hall.

Wait, back up. Let’s ignore for the moment the reference to the aunt’s pastry bag and the question of whether or not it is a good idea to simultaneously exploit and vilify nostalgia. Let’s even ignore the reference to the Champagne and deviled egg reception, an idea which not only flies in the face of our notions of appropriate combinations in provincial cookery (Hall’s phrase, not mine), but on the surface seems so revolting an idea that it can only be justified through the use of irony. The word resent used while describing an emotion concerning attitudes towards the serving of deviled eggs is indicative of a humorlessness that flirts with the ridiculous.

Anyone who has grown up in Kentucky, and doubtless most anywhere in the South has, at some point or another, had some jackass make a crack, or ask a breathtakingly idiotic question about the state. Personally I tend to laugh it off and use it as an opportunity to mock the offender subtly to their face and in ways they could have no doubt about behind their backs. And while I can understand that not every body likes blood on their teeth to same extent that I do, insisting that deviled eggs be served with the rigid pomposity of a minor civil servant’s ceremony might not be the best way to convince the world at large that southern culture is a force not to be mocked.

It would be awful if the same overblown, insincere political correctness that has infested our language were to take over our recipes as well. Deviled eggs do not need a crusader. They are their own justification, because, as with most traditional foods, people genuinely like them.

Therefore, let us not be aggrieved at the people who patronize our picnics. Let us not be insulted by those who serve their eggs “with a wink, a nod, and a sly smile of condescension.” Instead let us pity them their insecurity for liking the deviled eggs and being afraid to admit it. Let us smile our own smile of condescension at their bourgeoisie as we dig with whole hearted joy into the big platters of creamy eggs, while our whole family stands united around the red-checkered table-cloth. Only then, when we have feasted on our deviled eggs with good humor and good sense, only then will we be completely free. n