Once, when I was very young and foolish, I threw a party, the refreshments for which consisted exclusively of deviled eggs. Mind you, there was some variety: I made deviled eggs with bacon, deviled eggs with horseradish, deviled eggs with pickle relish, even a highly dubious specimen involving salmon roe. Each one was topped with something different—paprika, chopped chives, green peppercorns—and boasted a small sign. Keep in mind that this was many years ago, before we knew smoked paprika, let alone eggs stuffed with smoked trout or sriracha, but I tried. (I had also not yet discovered Durkee Famous Sauce, which would revolutionize my egg-deviling.) On this long-ago day, in my innocence, I boiled and mashed and stuffed and garnished for hours, and at the end it seemed to me that I had never seen anything so beautiful as that table full of deviled eggs. No one else was that into it. Even people who like deviled eggs seemed to understand instinctively that half their power came from their preciousness. I had to eat so many that I was sick, but I still loved them. The party was a failure.
The single worst deviled egg I’ve ever eaten was in Maine in the summer of 2008. By this time I had eaten my way around town, having consumed all manner of deviled eggs—some good, some bad—but never before or since had I encountered an abomination like this. Here was what was in the deviled egg: egg yolk and horseradish. No salt, so mayonnaise. I had not known such degradation was possible. I had to throw the balance into a garbage can set under a pine tree. We had accidentally decided to picnic on a gay beach, and when I went to throw the egg away, I came upon a man giving another man a blow job in the woods.
One day not long ago I was visiting my parents. Life had changed; suddenly deviled eggs were everywhere—at tapas bars, in sepia-toned Brooklyn whiskey joints. I, too, was jaded; I had taken to cutting my eggs horizontally, across the equator, and serving them this way. One one occasion, I even deviled some pheasant eggs. This was what we had come to.
My parents declared that, come Saturday morning, we would all go to tag sales. I said I didn’t need anything in the world—except, perhaps, an old-fashioned deviled-egg plate, the perimeter scored with egg-shaped depressions. And then, at the last sale of the day, we found one: it is cut glass, very heavy, and holds fifteen deviled eggs. I am not sure what to put in the center of the dish. It cost me one dollar.