A few good Eggs

April 08, 2001|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff

Even before there was an Easter, there were decorated eggs.

Pagans used them in spring festivals. Many ancient cultures dyed eggs, exchanged them and generally considered them symbols of fertility. Their link to Easter is centuries old -- a simple yet colorful symbol of man's rebirth.

To celebrate the season, The Sun asked a handful of people -- all with links to eggs -- to try their hand at decorating an egg or two for Easter.

The results ranged from the traditional dye job (shades of the eternal Paas) to the truly ornate (requiring hours of spare time, a steady hand and, gulp, a dental drill).

So here's to the Easter egg, not only incredible and edible, but nature's perfect little artistic canvas.

Steve Sarro

Steve Sarro's eggs come in all colors and sizes. Some are shiny. Some are mottled or green or blue or yellow. Some are almost cone shaped.

As curator of birds at the Baltimore Zoo, Sarro knows eggs. To counter the ordinariness of a chicken egg, he chose to paint his in acrylics. To a gold one, he added emu feathers. A blue one has the end of a peacock plume.

Sarro figures he sees more than his share of eggs from the zoo's 105 species of birds. Some are collected and incubated, some are left alone to be raised by their parents, and some are never hatched -- including a few that wind up decorated and sold in the zoo's gift shop.

"Eggs are part of being a bird," says Sarro, 42, of Parkville, who has worked at the zoo for 16 years. "All birds come from eggs -- from the itty-bitty hummingbird eggs to the huge ostrich egg. They [ostrich eggs] are the largest single cells in the world."

AARON MARTAK

When Aaron Martak decorates eggs, it's usually with a sprig of parsley and maybe a side of hash browns.

Not this time. His orange-red egg was rubbed to create a crackle effect. Attached to a mannequin's hand and draped in purple beads, it's meant to evoke the tale of Mary Magdalen turning one red in a Roman court as proof of Christ's resurrection. The attached forks can be interpreted as wings, Martak says.

Unusual? Not at the PaperMoon Diner, the funky, artsy eatery in Remington, where Martak works as assistant manager.

In the average week, the PaperMoon sells 160 dozen eggs. Martak's expertise with them is unquestioned (his cooking career began at age 15 as a short-order cook at Towson's Steak and Egg), and he offers this bit of advice to aspiring chefs:

"Hot pan, cold oil," says Martak, "and your eggs will never stick."

Mitzi Perdue

It takes a tough artist to decorate a tender egg -- at least to the standards of Mitzi Perdue, wife of Salisbury's chicken king.

Her rhea egg contains a tiny fairy in paper dress standing beneath a floral arch in a spring garden. Hours and hours of effort went into the Faberge-inspired design -- particularly the latticework design she carved with a dental drill into the eggshell.

It's a far cry from the eggs her mother used to dye for the family Easter egg hunts on their farm in suburban Boston. But it's typical of the work of Perdue, whose elaborately decorated eggs have become famous (ending up in the hands of more than a few heads of state) and can be viewed at their own Web site, www.eggscape.com.

"I wish my mother could see where egg-decorating took me," says Perdue, who relishes the irony of being the "egg lady" to Frank Perdue's career as the "chicken man." "She'd be surprised how far I've come in 50 years."

James "Rip" Rippetoe

For 364 days a year, James "Rip" Rippetoe is a mild-mannered air conditioning mechanic. Next Sunday, more than 1,000 children will know him by his holiday name: The Easter Bunny.

For six years, the Brooklyn resident has donned the costume as a volunteer for the sprawling Easter celebration sponsored by the Club 4100 in the South Baltimore neighborhood. The 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. event, which is free for children, has been sponsored by the restaurant and bar for four decades.

Rippetoe acknowledges his egg-decorating skills are modest. His mother helped him dye his egg blue (a favorite Paas color). But when it comes to playing the Easter Bunny, he has few peers: How many people can stand sweating in the bulky fur suit for three hours?

"It's not an easy job," says Rippetoe, 36. "The best part is getting out of the costume."

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