How to spend lots of money on Easter eggs

Doing a survey of bizarrely expensive Easter eggs has become a sort of tradition here at Notes.

Did you notice how I slid that statement by using “has become,” as if I had nothing to do with the process? But I write this mess. So why do I do a yearly survey of overpriced Easter eggs? Because there’s something magnetic and horrible about watching the world’s insanity.

And since I’m taking responsibility for what goes on here, I should stop and issue a serious-content warning: I can lose my sense of humor over this stuff all too easily, so if you read the next three paragraphs (one is short, so call it two and a half paragraphs) you do it at your own risk. And if you lose your own sense of humor, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Britain’s been living with austerity budgets since 2008. Or 2012. It depends on who you believe and, I guess, how you count. Schools–not all of them, but a canary-in-the-coal-mine few–are so short of money that they’re no longer teaching a full five-day week. Food shelves–which were somewhere between rare and unknown when my partner and I moved here fourteen years ago–are everywhere and overwhelmed. The waiting list for mental health services is long, as the news reminds us periodically when someone with a bit of public appeal gives up on waiting and walks off a cliff. That’s a small and random sampling of the effects of austerity, but you get the drift. Money’s tight. We can’t afford frills.

Did I say frills? We’re not affording basics.

What’s that got to do with overpriced Easter eggs? Everything. Do you know how many British bankers were paid over a million euros a year in 2017? The answer is 3,567. Of those, 30 were paid more than 10 million and one got 40.9 million. I’d give you data for a more recent year but 2017 is what I can find. And I’d translate that to pounds, which my keyboard offers me a sign for, but you don’t want me juggling numbers. I’m dangerous when I get around numbers.

If you think spending that much money is easy, think again, and here we rejoin our topic, Easter eggs, and I hope my sense of humor. Easter eggs are a great way for those beleaguered bankers spend their hard-earned cash.

At the, ahem, lower end–really, too low to include here but I don’t want to look like a snob–you can buy a hamper of organic chocolate for £55 from Green and Black’s. It’s “perfect for indulging all your family and friends at Easter.” They mention that in case you didn’t know what to do with an entire basket of chocolate and thought you had to eat it yourself. It’s “delivered in a beautiful black twisted paper woven onto black metal frame hamper with black faux leather with two silver metal clasps.”

It’s funny how much better fake sounds when you say it in French.

Still on the low end, Betty’s of Harrogate sells a chocolate egg for £57.50. For that, you get a “sumptuous hand crafted egg that’s equal parts craft skills, dedication and wonderful chocolate.”

Are craft skills and dedication edible? Are craft skills different than craft and skill? I wouldn’t have said so, but what do I know? They’re the chocolatiers and they’re not about to give away their recipe. 

The egg’s also stunning, traditional, stippled, smooth, delicate, and–no wait, it’s already been stunning. We don’t want to stun people twice. My apologies. It comes in an elegant box.

You might be able to get it for a mere £57 if you can make do without the adjectives. But go on, splurge. Spend the extra 50p.

For £80, Hotel Chocolat sells an ostrich Easter egg that’s “40% milk chocolate, 50% dark chocolate” and since that adds up to 90%, 10% verbiage.

More apologies: I didn’t need to add the extra 10%. Half of it (that’s 50% where I come from) is made from 40% milk chocolate and the other half (again, 50%) from 50% milk chocolate. You can see why I ran into trouble. The British system of selling chocolate lets you know the percent of actual chocolate, as opposed to sugar, milk, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid, vanilla, and (if we’re talking about, horrors, inexpensive chocolate) wax. They don’t all contain all of that.  I’m just giving you a general sense of the possibilities here.

The egg comes with a neatly boxed squadron of chocolates and the whole shebang weighs more than a kilo. That’s 2.2 pounds. Your family and friends aren’t mentioned, so we can assume every bit of it is for you. Try not to eat it in one sitting.

And now we have to switch briefly to dollars and inedible eggs. I know, this comes from the wrong country, but bear with me. I found these online and I hate to waste research. For $179.95, Williams Sonoma offers a box of alabaster eggs in an “array of cheery colors,” but they aren’t available in the European Union because of “technical challenges due to new regulations.” I have no idea what regulations those are or why they’re challenging, which is a shame because I was going to order three boxes. Or a full dozen. Nothing exceeds like excess.

If I got the quote about the cheery colors wrong, I apologize. I had to grab it quick before the page and its photo disappeared and got replaced by the you-can’t-have-it, blame-the-EU notice.

We’ll call them Brexit eggs. Even though the U.S. isn’t leaving the E.U. It might, but that’s hard to predict when no mechanism exists for a country to leave when it never joined and by virtue of geography isn’t eligible. So we don’t know who’d get to make the decision or which way they’d jump.

We’ve had the same problem–we don’t know who gets to make the decision or which way they’ll jump–in Britain lately and the mechanism for leaving’s quite clear. Apologies if that crack’s gone out of date. It only means I forgot to update this before it posted.

Further up the scale, Betty’s of Harrogate offers the Imperial Easter Egg for £250. You can’t find this one by going onto Betty’s website. That’s one way to filter out the riff-raff. Since I’m a dedicated bit of riff-raff myself, I had to find my way to it by way of a magazine article. If I was the sort of person who had an inborn right to buy one of these, I’d have just known. But now that I have found it, I’ll open the door and let my follow bits of riff-raff follow me in without needing to look at Cosmopolitan magazine online.

In case it’s not already clear, Cosmopolitan is no more a part of my natural habitat than this (or any other) section of Betty’s website is.

The egg is made to order (Betty’s, understandably, doesn’t want to get stuck with a few dozen when the season’s over) and weighs 5 kilos. If you translate that to pounds and melt it, you’ll find it’s enough chocolate to float a full-scale replica of the Titanic.

Ah, but it’s not only made to order, it’s personally delivered. The website doesn’t say personally by who. (For that much money, it should really be delivered by a whom, not a who, but let’s not let the money intimidate us into being pretendting we’re formal.) My experience with delivery is that it always involves a person. Usually two of them, me and someone driving a delivery truck and working under a contract whose conditions come right out of the  nineteenth century. But maybe Betty delivers this one herself. I just don’t know.

If the Imperial Egg strikes you as cheesy, try Betty’s Centenary Imperial Easter Egg for £495. It weighs over 5 kilos, although I can’t tell how much over. A gram? An ounce? A half pint? Never mind. What matters is that it’s heavier than the plain ol’ imperial version.

It’s also made to order. It doesn’t seem to be personally delivered, but it comes heavily gilded with adjectives, although not as heavily as Betty’s £57.50 egg. At this price, they can trust themselves to the elegance of minimalism. If it counts as minimal when you include shimmering, hand moulded (I’ve left the U in place because for this much money you should at least get a spare U), delicate, and nestled. Maybe we should call that relatively restrained instead on minimal and attribute it to the self-confidence of people dealing in bizarrely expensive Easter eggs. Or maybe they wrote up the cheaper eggs first and used up all the adjectives. 

If all that isn’t expensive enough for you, we’ll switch countries and currencies again. Tiffany sells a sterling silver bird’s nest for $10,000. It’s “whimsical design was inspired by a 1969 engagement ad from the Tiffany Archives. Woven from delicate strands of sterling silver and housing three custom Tiffany Blue® porcelain eggs, this design transforms an ordinary object into an extraordinary sterling silver piece.”

It’s not edible and it comes with a registered trademark symbol on the word blue, which justifies the price. What’s Tiffany blue? A robin’s egg color. The trademark it doesn’t mean that robins can’t lay blue eggs anymore. All they have to do is pay a small tax on each egg and they’re free to use the color as much as they like.

Tiffany doesn’t predict any technical difficultires sending it to the European Union. That will be relevant if Britain’s still in the European Union by the time you order it.

*

I haven’t written any of this to argue that we go back to a traditional religious Easter. I mention that because periodically someone leaves a comment saying that we should. I’m not religious, and in any case Easter isn’t part of the religion I don’t have. I did, for whatever relevance it has, grow up with the secular version of the holiday and I still have a weak spot for Easter baskets.

I’m not really advocating anything else either. I could, but I’d lose even more of my sense of humor. You could probably say that I’m just having a moan.

For anyone who’s not British, I need to explain moaning. It’s a fine old British tradition that I’ve lived here long enough to adopt. It involves complaining but never, ever to anyone who might be able to fix the problem. If you complain to the right person, you’re no longer moaning, you’re being–. Um. Something. Awkward maybe. Or bolshie. I haven’t been here long enough to know the right word, although I expect it gets used now and then when I leave the room, but I don’t get to hear it.

With that said, if you’re determined to complain to the right person, you’re welcome here anyway. There’s not reason to limit ourselves to moaning. I’m not actually sure that restricting the conversation to moaning is part of the British stereotype. I trust folks will set me straight on all of the above.

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, whether it’s something religious or the first spring flowers (or the start of fall if you’re on the bottom half of the globe–or more warm weather if you’re right in the middle), I wish you a good one.

Easter candy in the U.S. and U.K.: Special late edition

Our friend J., having read my post about Easter candy, sent us some from the U.S. Her cover note said to read the back of the Peeps package because it might inspire me.

“What’s a Peep?” you ask if you’re not from the U.S. It’s sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, yellow #5 (tartrazine), potassium sorbate (a preservative), natural [unspecified and I’d say hard to detect] flavors, and carnauba wax. Yum. They’re gluten free and fat free and shaped (if you have a bit of imagination) like a chick that came into existence by being spat from a spout. Each chick contains 28 calories. That’s 140 calories per serving, because, as an essential part of a balanced diet, serving size has been scientifically determined.

North Cornwall. Thatched cottage.

Irrelevant photo: Thatched cottage with gorse and may in bloom.

The text on the cover claims they’re marshmallow, but they taste like nothing that originated on planet Earth.

No, I’m going to backtrack on that, because I think carnauba wax is used on cars. On planet Earth. So if you’ve ever used your tongue to wax the car, the taste will be familiar. That means, all you Peep Corporation lawyers out there, that I retract my statement about planet Earth. Don’t sue. Please.

The text on the back of the package says that opening it “opens a world of possibilities! [Oh, the thrill implied by that exclamation mark. I’m so carried away I’ll add one of my own: !] From creative crafting and imaginative artwork, to delicious recipes and more, let the fun begin!” And I feel compelled to tell you that the repetitious use of open is theirs. They were aiming for one of those rhythmic poetic thingies. Isn’t it wondrous, the uses writing techniques can be put to?

So basically, what they’re saying here is that these things last forever and therefore can be used in any form of artwork. The Mona Lisa in Peeps? Why not? A Peep perched Thinker-like on the toilet? Sure! More exclamation marks? You got ‘em!

When I worked for a writers organization in Minnesota, one (or possibly two) of my illustrious co-workers impaled a Peep on the bathroom ceiling, where it remained for months without changing in any noticeable way. I’m not sure whether that was craft or art (it gets tricky sometimes, that art/craft question), but I do know the Peep didn’t rot or stretch or draw ants or roaches or anything else that would normally be drawn to food. Those insects? They know stuff. We could learn from them.

I have a bit more trouble with the delicious recipes the text promises. Peep pie? I don’t know what happens to them in the presence of heat. I’m not sure what happens to them, in fact, when they’re eaten. They appear to be indestructible. Do they pass through us whole or does the digestive system work its magic, even on Peeps?

Dedicated as I am to this blog, and to exploring every last aspect of the cultures of the U.S. and Britain, I draw the line at offering myself as a test subject. But I do, once again, wish those of you who celebrate it a happy Easter and those of you who don’t a happy non-Easter. To those of you who love Peeps, I offer my apologies. Our package has been promised to an American Peep-lover in the village, and she’s thrilled by the prospect of all those exclamation marks landing in her house.

And finally, to J. I send my profound thanks. For both the candy and the suggestion. I wouldn’t have thought to turn the package over and read it if you hadn’t told me to.

British and American English: The Easter update

The Methodist Church in our village has its annual egg roll at this time of year, and you need to understand that this is an event, not something to eat. If it was something to eat and if we were speaking British, it would be an egg on a roll. If we were speaking American, it would be a deep-fried appetizer from a Chinese restaurant—what the British call a spring roll. But no, this is more along the lines of the Gloucester Cheese Roll, only without insanely steep hill and the ambulances. And the cheese. It’s a bunch of kids rolling eggs down a hill. The one who reaches the bottom first (or at all, since chickens never designed their eggs for racing) wins. I’m not sure what the prize is. A deep-fried appetizer from a Chinese restaurant? An egg sandwich? A chocolate bunny?

I’ve never gone to the event, but I was specifically invited the year A. was a judge. Unfortunately, I got sick and stayed home, and that left me free to imagine it any way I want. What I imagine is that Easter in Britain is about rolling an egg down a hill.

Irrelevant photo: A tiny waterfall. Looking at this, you can almost believe the legends of fairies and little people.

Irrelevant photo: A tiny waterfall. Looking at this, you can almost believe the legends of fairies and little people.

In its more commercial form, Easter’s also about chocolate eggs, and these are massive things—not American football size, but moving in that direction. All your childhood dreams of greed, shaped like an egg. The Guardian (that’s a newspaper, in case you need to know) likes to compare the prices and qualities of different brands of food, and this year’s chocolate Easter egg comparison shows that some of them get into silly money territory. Hotel Chocolat? £27, and it’s filled with smaller chocolates.Harrods? £29.95. The paper recommends that one for Russian oligarchs, who aren’t known for their sense of humor so let’s assume the paper’s not making fun of them, and for safety’s sake neither am I. Marks & Spencer has one for £40 and that kind of money buys it its very own link. (FYI: Links here are not for sale unless I’m making fun of something at the other end, in which case no one’s likely to offer me money. I am so pure I’m almost invisible.) M & S’s egg is a “giant golden lattice egg with a delicate show-stopping small egg perched inside. . . . Because they’re so special, we’ve only made 7,500 eggs, each one numbered on the presentation box for an extra touch of luxury.” And then you eat the sucker and it’s gone, leaving you with nothing but that numbered presentation box and a bunch of adjectives. Spend enough money and you get a lot of adjectives. The original copy had even more, but I’m still an editor at heart and just had to cut some. And in case you’re worried, the gold is edible. Which is another adjective but an important one The Guardian doesn’t specifically recommend this particular egg for Russian oligarchs. I’m not sure why.

Back in the land of the sane, you can find chocolate eggs in supermarkets for £5, or for £2.99.

And we still haven’t gotten to chocolate bunnies. I’ve seen these in two sizes: nestle in your palm size and coffee mug size. I brought a small one home from a grocery shopping trip and Wild Thing reports that they’re good.

In the U.S., you can’t make your way through a store in the weeks before Easter without tripping over egg-dying kits. Or—well, I assume that’s still true. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around, never mind at Easter. In Britain, though, making Easter eggs from actual eggs don’t seem to be a big thing.

And this seems to be a leap, but it’s not: When I first started to write fiction, I wrote a transparently autobiographical story about my Jewish atheist family that included the sentence, “We celebrated Easter.”

My father read it.

“We never celebrated Easter,” he said.

I think that, in his quiet way he was scandalized. He was also, in my opinion, wrong.

It’s true that we didn’t celebrate it in a religious way. But we dyed eggs every year, and found people to give them to (who may have wondered about them but were kind enough not to ask). My brother and I woke up to Easter baskets—jellybeans, a chocolate rabbit (in my memory, they were huge), a panorama egg with a sugar shell and little cut-out figures inside, small chocolate eggs in foil wrappers, all of them nestled in fake grass.

Give a kid candy like that and she’ll think it’s a celebration. Add dyed eggs and, yes, you have a holiday. Sorry, Dad.

It didn’t turn me religious, but it did leave me with a fondness for chocolate bunnies, even though I don’t eat them anymore. I worked in a candy factory when I was in my twenties, and it left me immune to candy’s lures. The one exception is good, and very plain, dark chocolate. But I do like to see chocolate bunnies in their gorgeous foil wrappers.

I can even get sentimental about jellybeans. They never did taste good, but I ate them anyway. Like Everest, they were there. How could I not?

So if you celebrate Easter, happy Easter. And if you don’t, I can still recommend the chocolate bunnies. They don’t care what you believe.