Eggs have a long tradition of representing new life and welcoming spring. After a long winter, it’s easy to feel like celebrating at the sight of trees blossoming and the warmer temperatures.
The tradition of decorating and dyeing eggs is rooted in these early spring rituals and symbols, and people gave colored eggs as gifts to wish others a new beginning. Many of us grew up dyeing a ridiculous number of eggs using packaged colorings, like these. Vibrant colors are fun, but I started seeing photos of more muted colored eggs, which means different dyes; that piqued my curiosity. It makes sense that before there was Paas, there were other ways to color and decorate eggs – I had just never given it much thought. Let’s investigate!
Food is chemistry. I think that’s one of the reasons that it holds such mystique: talented cooks are not only preparers of nutrition, they are practical chemists. There is a lot to learn about the natural world just by making food – and if you truly understand food and food preparation, you have also gained an intuitive understanding of chemistry, the modification of molecules to create a desirable result.
Food and chemistry have always gone hand-in-hand. One of the earliest and most popular alchemical processes was the manufacture of aqua vitae – the “water of life”. Today we call the process “distillation”, and transliteration of “aqua vitae” gives rise to the words “whisky”, “eau de vie”, and “vodka”.
The Alchymist, In Search of the Philosophers' Stone by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1771.
When the aqua vitae starts glowing, it’s time to call a cab.