The Silver Egg
a recipe and memory
Somewhere a day’s drive north from where I am, on an abandoned piece of rocky farmland beside a little river and buried deep in ashes, dirt, collapsed limestone foundation rubble, and burnt furniture, there’s a lump of pure silver that may be my only family inheritance.
My early childhood hinged on a series of adventuresome disasters. There was the time my parents’ packed most of our belongings into an east-bound railway freight-car and it all ended up in a warehouse that burnt to the ground somewhere on the side of the tracks in the prairies, about half way to its destination. There was the rainy fall day a few years later when we were moving again, all packed into the white VW van with three kids in bunkbeds my dad built with plywood in the back, my mother pregnant and driving and without a seatbelt with what was left of all our belongings all strapped to the roof, the ropes almost doubling the height of the van. We were all of us travelling like some unbalanced turtle and we turned a corner too fast, flipped over 7 times and landed right-side up again in a ditch beside a cornfield somewhere in rural Michigan. My mum broke her back and my dad cracked a rib and my brother was totally covered in bruises and plywood splinters, but it could have been worse. I was pretty young and totally unharmed so what I remember best was sharing Alphagetti and drinking forbidden ginger-ale through bendy straws with my sister in a remote-controlled hospital bed. The other thing I remember is my dad’s descriptions of the suitcases and glass and camping gear and bits of bunkbed all strewn across the road, our life’s possessions exposed behind us.
There was at least one more fire. We rented a little wooden house on an almost pioneer piece of land in the middle of nowhere in Northern Ontario. I remember my job of carrying a rusty bucket of water up the hill to the house and trying to pat the nice horse named Brownie, the smell of sweet golden straw on his velvety lips, and trying to avoid the mean horse named Whitey who was all teeth and loved tipping the water bucket over which would roll back down the hill almost all the way to the pump where you would have to start over. This house also burnt to the ground with what was left of our possessions one afternoon when we were all away. According to family lore, the only thing of real value we lost in that fire was the set of Victorian dinnerware from my great great grandmother which was said to be solid silver and which must have melted into a lump and fallen deep into the wreckage of our house to become a secret buried treasure. If we were to try and find it now, a perusal of silver buyers online and the average weight of a set of flatware suggests that this treasure would be worth somewhere around $800, which split between my brother and sisters and Papa would be just enough to pay for some medium-quality shovels and the tank of gas we’d need to get up there and back.
But still. I can’t get this heavy, malleable, blackened, buried and dull-shimmering lump out of my head. Its a piece of tarnished metallic memory pulsing there underground and if I can’t dig it up I’d at least like to try to to somehow recreate its colour and feeling. And what better time to do this than Easter, that Judeo-Pagan of sinkings and risings, of burial and rebirth. What follows (but only if you are a full subscriber to the Color Lab) are two recipes for silver and gold eggs that involve magic and fire, time and transformation. For me this exploration of metallic colour is going to have to do until it gets a little warmer and I can start thinking about digging.
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