Eggs aren't much to dye for compared with chocolate-squirted strawberries

March 26, 1997|By ROB KASPER

Being cool to the concept of celebrating Easter by dunking eggs in dye, I warmed up to an alternative way to mark the day. Namely, squirting strawberries with plastic bags filled with melted chocolate chips.

Squirting berries has several appealing aspects. First of all, it appears to be a way out of that whole egg-dyeing routine. There are folks who excel at dyeing eggs, folks who can transform an ordinary white egg into a delicately colored work of art. Then there are the rest of us, the egg-dyeing-impaired.

We see the world in basic hues, black, white, red, blue and sometimes green. Subtle distinctions trouble us. We struggle with the difference between sea foam and forest, fuchsia and purple, hot taupe and cool harvest. When we were kids and our mothers let us dye an egg any color we desired, we usually produced a black egg. We were proud of this "death egg," but its appearance made our mothers shake their heads with frustration, and send us outside to play. Later, when we got married and sat around the kitchen table dyeing Easter eggs with our family, we once again brought forth black eggs and our wives shook their heads with frustration.

By contrast, squirting bags of melted chocolate onto whole strawberries seemed easy to me. Sort of like chocolate graffiti.

Secondly, the item getting decorated, a whole strawberry, was a treat to eat. I do not feel that way about the hardened yolks and whites that lurk under the shells of the decorated Easter eggs.

I recognize that there are people who are extremely fond of eggs. For example, when reading "Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt's moving memoir of growing up in the 1930s and '40s in Ireland, I was struck by how, in McCourt's poor family, an egg was a treasure, a prize to be fought for. McCourt's account made me think I might feel more kindly toward eggs if, like him, I had grown up regarding eggs as a luxury. Despite this insight, I still can't get myself to like the flavor of hard-boiled eggs. Given the choice between eggs and strawberries, I would take the berries in a heartbeat.

I had a lingering suspicion, however, about squirting strawberries with melted chocolate. My problem was that the idea came in a package of material sent out by the California Strawberry Commission. In the world of food marketing, there are a number of such commissions. They are usually formed by gathering clever people, who come up with bright ideas on how to push a product. The product could be salmon, and the commission could come up with an idea like "Send a salmon to your lover." Or the product could be rhubarb and the idea could be "Bake a rhubarb pie and feel better about your inner life." Or the product could be milk, and the marketing idea could be "Let's show celebrities with milk mustaches."

My trouble with this "bright idea" approach to food is that the cleverness of the idea sometimes overpowers common sense. I strongly suspect, for instance, that the entire nouvelle cuisine movement that swept through the restaurant world not so long ago and forced diners to confront fruit soup as a first course, was, in fact, the work of a clandestine, but very clever, fruit marketing commission.

So as I looked over the list of fresh ideas for strawberries put out by the California marketing group, I was skeptical. Make a salad out of strawberries by mixing them with spinach leaves, orange segments, toasted pecans and a dressing of oil, red wine vinegar, honey, salt and fresh black pepper? I don't think so. Too exotic.

Dip whole strawberries in honey then roll them in chopped toasted almonds?! I couldn't indulge in such libertine behavior. At least not on Easter.

But the idea of squirting strawberries with chocolate chips that have been zapped in the microwave was right up my alley. The instructions were simple. Just put some chocolate chips in a sturdy plastic bag, and keep zapping them until the chips melt. Next, you put whole strawberries close together on a baking sheet. With scissors you snip off the corner of the bag, then moving back forth, you gently squeeze the melted chocolate onto the strawberries.

If I feel artistic, I might try to spell out a word, with the melted chocolate, on a few of those Easter strawberries. The word I am thinking of is "egg."

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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