My husband, Ken, came home from work with word of an office party at his new job. "I'm supposed to bring deviled eggs," he said. "Will you make them?"
"How many do you need?" I asked.
"How about six dozen?"
"Six dozen! How many people are coming to this party?" I was going to need a serving dish the size of the International Space Station. "How about six dozen halves?"
He nodded. "Um, can you make them look perfect? I want to impress the boss."
"If you help me peel them," I answered.
The next day I bought three dozen eggs, cooked them, and left them in the refrigerator. Then I went to the library. When I returned, Ken was standing at the kitchen sink. On the counter sat a bowl of eggs waiting to be peeled. A plate held others that looked like victims of a terrorist attack. Some had fingernail-size gashes. Others were split at angles that rendered them incapable of holding yolk filling. A few were nothing but crumbles.
When I grabbed an egg and tried to peel it, a big clump of the white part stuck to the shell as if it were super-glued.
I put my failed attempt on the plate with Ken's rejects. "I'll use these for egg salad," I said. "I don't know why they're so hard to peel."
"I couldn't reach you, so I called your mom," Ken said. "She said we were supposed to plunge the cooked eggs into ice water and peel them right away.
"Maybe we can boil them again and then try the ice water." Ken's voice had the enthusiasm of an inventor with a new idea.
We tried it. As I peeled the first egg, it clung to its shell with the same grip as the others.
On the Internet, I found instructions for "perfect" hard-boiled eggs. The cooking time was two minutes shorter than mine. "Let's start over," I said. "I'll go buy some more."
I cooked the new eggs, carefully watching the kitchen timer. I plunged them into ice water and chose one. I slipped my fingernail between the egg and shell, leaving a gash in one side of the white. But the other side was fine. I cut the egg in half, put the good side on the serving tray and added the other half to my egg-salad collection. I looked at the rejected eggs. "Some of these aren't too bad," I said. "We could put the bad sides down and cover the bad spots with filling."
Ken nodded. He supervised as I peeled more eggs, groaning when I added one to the egg-salad plate.
"Why don't you go watch the news?" I suggested.
Ken left, and I peeled the best I could. Finally, I had 24 halves that passed our lowered criteria. I also had enough leftovers to make egg salad for the Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line.
By that time I was too tired to make any more. "How about I get up early and get more eggs in the morning?" I asked.
Ken winced. I went to bed.
In the morning, I felt like a college kid the day a 50-percent-of-your-grade term paper was due but not yet completed. I hoped I had time to make enough "acceptable" eggs.
Then I got an idea.
I phoned the grocery store. "Do you have any ready-made deviled eggs?" I asked.
They did. I raced to the store, got the eggs, and rushed home. I moved the eggs to my serving tray. But something was wrong. The eggs looked "too good." The filling was shaped like a decorative star. With my little finger, I smeared the filling on each egg and sprinkled on a little paprika.
I got to Ken's office with time to spare.
After work, he beamed. "They loved the eggs! They want me to bring them again next year."
"No problem," I said. "Now I know how to make perfect deviled eggs."