Legend of the Pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg)
Among Ukrainians there is a belief that the fate of the world depends upon pysanky. As long as egg decorating continues, the world will exist. should the custom cease, evil in the guise of an ancient, vicious monster chained to a huge cliff, will encompass the world and destroy it. Each year the monster's servants encircle the globe, keeping a record of the number of pysanky made. Should there be too few, the monster's chains loosen, and evil flows through the world. If there are many, the monster's chains hold taut, allowing love to conquer evil. (from Surma's website)
Ok, I am pushing the food thing here a bit today. Yes, they are made from eggs and eggs are food. But these are not edible. Not that you would want to after all the work put into making them!
Last year, I posted about them, but in case you missed that, let me tell you what they are. They are pysanky, a traditional Ukrainian method of decorating eggs, Easter eggs.
It is believed the the ancient people in the area that is now the Ukraine, the Trypillian, were perhaps making eggs like these thousands of years ago and then, when Christianity came to the region, the symbolism was adapted to the Christian themes of the rebirth of man from sin, and the legends surrounding them moved from monsters to more religious ideas. To quote my friends at Wikipedia...
"One legend concerns the Virgin Mary. It tells of the time Mary gave eggs to the soldiers at the cross. She entreated them to be less cruel to her son and she wept. The tears of Mary fell upon the eggs, spotting them with dots of brilliant color.
Another legend tells of when Mary Magdalene went to the sepulchre to anoint the body of Jesus. She had with her a basket of eggs to serve as a repast. When she arrived at the sepulchre and uncovered the eggs, the pure white shells had miraculously taken on a rainbow of colors.
A common legend tells of Simon the peddler, who helped Jesus carry his cross on the way to Calvary. He had left his goods at the side of the road, and, when he returned, the eggs had all turned into intricately decorated pysanky."
In theory, the idea of how they are made is simple. You start with a raw egg, say a white egg, although you can use brown eggs and not only chicken, but goose or ostrich and any sort of egg. You then decide what parts of the egg you would like to remain white in the final egg and apply melted wax to that part. You then dye it the next darker color in your plan, say yellow. Then you apply wax to what you want to remain yellow and then dye the next darker color. So you go with each color, adding element after element to the design. At the end, when you have dyed it the darkest color, be that black or brown or dark blue or dark red, you will remove all the wax and have your hopefully beautiful, colorful egg.
Usually, they are then varnished to give then a shine and offer a bit of protection.
I am not Ukrainian, not one little bit. Then how did I start making them you might wonder. Well, a girl I went to high school with was very Ukrainian By which I mean her parents were immigrants and took passing on the culture very seriously) and it was she that first showed me a decorated egg. Then I went to a Ukrainian store in NYC, Surma, and saw the display of decorated eggs they had, and I was hooked.
If you are interested in giving it a try there is a great deal of information on the internet, many books with instructions and designs, and even a number of videos showing you how to get started. The supplies you need are also available and a basic set is not expensive. In fact, I think Surma has a basic kit available for about $20 and I am sure others are available.
The work is intricate and you have to be patient...and careful, because remember, you are working with a raw egg and it is terrible to break an egg you have spent hours working on. But so rewarding when you hold that egg up to the heat and start to wipe of the black wax and find the treasure below!
This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.