Monday, March 22, 2010

ALL THE KING'S HORSES . . .


 
 
 
 
 
Internet photo
There's just something about this time of year that says "Eggs." Not just EGG-eggs, but fancy, gussied-up ones, with scenes and little woodland creatures and bunnies with MORE eggs featured prominently upon them. And Debra Lee Flowers used to make these eggs.

A bowl of sugar, a little food color in a bit of water, dribbled in and stirred vigorously just to dampen and tint the sugar all through, then the stuff was packed firmly into the halves of the plastic egg molds.

Wilton did a thriving business in all sizes of plastic ovals, and on several occasions, the beautiful little tableaux had humble beginnings in leftover L'eggs packages. A flat planing of the top to make the finished product fit together perfectly, a quick ploooomp out onto a cookie sheet, with half an hour in a low-low oven, and the rock-hard pieces could be cooled and put together with Royal Icing.

(Also purchased in powdered form from the ever-estimable Wilton Company, purveyor of such niceties as baking pans of every imaginable shape, paste color of uncountable rainbows, impossibly-cantilevered stands for soaring creations, and tiny staircases for marching wee bridesmaids up the sides of a wedding cake).

She made quite a few of the fancy eggs, and if she took them out when they were just SO from the oven, just at that perfect moment when the shells were hardened, and the centers still a bit damp, she could scrape out the middles and make the most enchanting little vignettes inside, like if Willy Wonka and Faberge' got drunk together one night on chocolate vodka.


And Humpty Dumpty---he was an experiment one year, for her own Easter centerpiece, and he turned out quite well, she thought. He was an ostrich-sized egg, a bright yellow, his bottom cut very flat, and had cute little ruffly arms and legs piped of frosting, just like the clowns on page 89 of the Spring book.
And the wall---oh, the wall. She had SO much patience then, and so many ideas---she later harbored the wish that she'd not squandered so much of it on geegaws like little villages and baseball diamonds, all made of sugar. If only she'd saved half of each for her later years, when patience wears thin and clever is hard to come by.

The wall, she thought, would be best constructed of cardboard---the bottom of a CornFlakes box seemed about right for forming the first one. She cut it about five inches from the bottom with an x-acto knife, flipping it upside down and making a perfect little perch for His Eggness. Then came the bricking.
A lot of frosting-smearing and smoothing later, she had successfully frosted the outside of the cardboard. A quick sprinkling all over with a good coating of red-tinted sugar, and the fun began: do you have any idea how crosseyed you can get, and how sticky, and how much you begin to HATE sugar, on a midnight when you've stood there making little skewer-tracks through frosting and RED sugar, marking off brick-shapes, even and squared and stacked as they should be?
But was at last done, and the setting-on of Humpty and the piping of his little arms and legs and facial features the last part---he wore a tiny Pilgrimish hat, of black construction paper, and a big smile, apparently not knowing of the crash to come.

And people saw it, and wanted one like it---she must have made about a dozen that year, and put the pictures into her album for future customers.
One year, the request changed a little---he was to be caught in actual FALL on a birthday cake. She worked out a way of tipping him backward and putting his little legs askew in the air, for the Birthday Boy, age four, had specified that he wanted him tumped over. And he wanted to supply the horses himself---with no mention at all of King's Men.
Debra Lee dutifully delivered the cake, only to watch the kid bring out about a dozen small green plastic cowboys-on-horses, a rearing stallion or two, several of his Weeblish farm-scene steeds, now missing legs or ears, and two of his sister's Little Ponies, one pink, one purple, and shorn of their girly manes and tails.
He went wild on that cake, on the smooth green icing with the neat "stone" path up to the wall, digging in those tiny hooves, those small chubby babyhood horses, those dainty little pony-feet. He scattered equine shapes with abandon and joy, making the little lawn into a hoof-scarred morass like Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
 
The chaos on that cake would have put Wilton slap out of business, she thought as she drove away---a whole barnyard of mismatched horses plowing up great holes in the green turf, a Humpty-Dumpty with his butt in the air, and two embarrassed, naked Little Ponies sorta huddling shamefully in a corner, listing a bit to starboard.
 
There was way more decor than actual cake, but the Birthday Boy seemed smugly satisfied with the wreckage, though Debra Lee heard later at BTU that he'd gotten a day-after spanking for climbing up to the What-Not shelf where his Mama had preserved Humpty and the wall, and gnawing all the Royal Icing off the entire piece.
Debra Lee swore off eggs forever, giving all the molds to her daughters for their sandbox.
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And the little boy now works at PIXAR.
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4 comments:

Southern Lady said...

Oh, how funny, Rachel. Wherever do you get these wonderful stories?

I loved the "What-Not" story, too. What is about those wonderful old corner cabinets and shelves filled with "trash and treasures" that forever fascinates little ones (and grown-ups, too!)?

racheld said...

Lots of parts are true, but from different people, put together into a little frame that seems cohesive. Sometimes they're my stories, and sometimes things I remember.

The Family Tree things are as accurate as the research and my memories can make them.

Keetha said...

I love those sugar eggs. I have one I made years ago.

My grandmother used to make these other type of eggs with my cousins and me. We blew up balloons then wrapped multi-colored yarn (mine was always a mix of bright yellow, pastel yellow, and white - my cousin's was hot pink, pale pink, and white) all around the balloon. Then we'd dip it in a mixture of sugar and water and use a close pin to attach the balloon, dripping with the water-sugar solution, to the close line. Let it hang there until dry - sometimes a bird would come, called by the sweetness of the sugar and would peck our balloon, ruining the effect. Then we'd take it down, deflate the balloon, and cut a whole in the side of the basket we now had and fill it with Easter grass or candy.

Fun stuff.

racheld said...

The very BEST part of writing down anything is kindling a happy memory in a reader. And if there were only ONE reader, I'd still jot down little bits and stories, hoping that a kindred spirit would find something of interest or a nice memory.

I LOVE your egg-basket story, Keetha!! (And part of the writing pleasure is my vicarious enjoyment of other people's happy moments). If you have a picture of those eggs, I'd love to see it (and perhaps post it).