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What’s up with egg salad that it gets a whole week?

Which came first the chicken salad or the egg salad?

In Woody Allen’s 1966 movie What’s Up, Tiger Lily? Allen plays a secret agent searching for the perfect egg salad recipe, which has gone missing. When I first watched this movie I didn’t get much of the plot or the agent’s obsession with egg salad. I still don’t really get the movie. But now I understand the elusive pleasure of a perfect egg salad sandwich.


There’s no better time to celebrate this all-American classic than National Egg Salad week, conveniently timed to begin the Monday after Easter (we’re giving you plenty of heads up here). Eggs abound in springtime celebrations, whether it’s the pastel-dyed beauties in Easter baskets or the hard-boiled egg on the Passover Seder plate. And what better way to use up the extras than egg salad?


The basic recipe uses hard-boiled eggs either chopped or sliced and mixed with mayonnaise, lemon juice and seasonings. It’s impossible to say who made the first egg salad, but there are recipes dating back to the 13thcentury for stuffed eggs, where the yolks were mashed with herbs and vinegar. By the 15thcentury, stuffed eggs—the precursor to egg salad—were filled with raisins, cheese and herbs (like mint) and fried in oil and topped either with cinnamon and cloves, a tart juice made from unripe fruit or powdered sugar, according to the website, history.com. 


Deviled eggs started to appear in the 18thcentury, where “deviling” became the verb to describe “making food spicy.” In some part of the world, deviled eggs served at church functions were renamed “mimosa eggs” or “dressed eggs” to avoid association with Satan. 


This unchopped version lasted until shortly after the invention of mayonnaise. In the early 19th century, French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême adapted a common egg-and-oil sauce, using a lighter and less expensive vegetable oil rather than olive oil, to make what we recognize as today’s mayonnaise. The British name for egg salad is egg mayonnaise, which culinary website wideopeneats.com says is a direct translation of the French phrase, oeufs mayonnaise. I’m sure it wasn’t long before some bright cook thought to use it to moisten and bind hard-boiled eggs in a satisfying sandwich filling. 


The fun part is trying to find, like Woody Allen, the “perfect recipe.” One contender might be legendary New York restaurateur Eli Zabar’s egg salad. Zabar’s beloved creation removed half the egg whites from the recipe, making for a particularly rich version. His restaurants have been using the same recipe since 1975. 


Don’t worry about running out of eggs for your salad experiments: according to the American Egg Board, the U.S. produced about 75 billion eggs a year to satisfy growing demand. The USDA says Americans are eating more eggs, up to 279 a year on average, compared to 271 in 2016. Eggs, once considered cholesterol-laden and unhealthy, are now seen as a good source of fat and protein. Good news for egg lovers. And for those still searching for the best egg salad sandwich...



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