I was lamenting this weekend that I no longer see the eggs of my childhood. Forget Easter bonnets. I never saw one and I think that was of an earlier era but chocolate Easter eggs still abound. However, we’ve hit such an era of mass production that there is little originality left in eggs unless you make your own.
I grew up in Calgary but my friend Laura, a native of Vancouver’s lower Mainland, remembers the same eggs. My mother used to order these eggs from a local chocalatier. It wasn’t even Purdy’s or Laura Secord, though I think for a brief spurt those companies had the eggs. Now, I was hard pressed to find even a picture of these beautiful pieces of culinary art.
The eggs were hollow chocolate, usually about six inches long. They were decorated with a hard icing, similar to the type on birthday or wedding cakes but this would be very crunchy. The eggs my mother gave us had a ripple of icing sealing the top to the bottom and then some flowers and leaves cresting the top of the egg. Once you cracked the egg open there were about five handmade chocolates inside resting in some shredded paper nesting.
My mother was never big on packaged or processed foods. She never used cake or pie mixes. And she did have that taste for chocolate that I’ve inherited. So these were gourmet chocolate back before there were fancy chocolate shops where one chocolate can cost you $2. Saving the top of the egg till last was the best where you could either let the hard sugar flowers dissolve in your mouth or eat the sugar icing with some chocolate attached.
These days you can enter any store and find rows on rows of chocolate eggs, ranging from the gooey Cadbury eggs to larger ones fill with Smarties or Reese’s Pieces. But you won’t find eggs decorated with sugar icing. Once in a while there still might exist a mass produced version but it’s rare. And finding any chocolatiers that will do these eggs, that don’t cost $20 or more, is pretty much impossible. With the equivalent of wages and costs when I was a kid, I can guarantee my mother would not have spent that much money for four kids each with a unique, decorated egg each. So the cost has certainly increased exponentially.
There used to be a chocolatier of the old style in Vancouver, in that V between Main and Kingsway. He could be cantankerous but all his stuff, from nougat to chocolates were made in the back room. My friend Laura remembers eggs from him and she said you knew he decorated them because, as he got older, the decorating got a little more shaky. When he died, his chocolate shop died with him. It’s too bad.
It may be that next year I’ll try to make a few of these eggs for my friends and family because they were the true magic of Easter and the joy that the Easter bunny left.
The above egg picture comes from this lovely confectionery site. http://www.georgenick.co.uk/Foods.htm