Deviled eggs are staples of brunches, picnics, and potlucks. And it’s easy to see why. As far as preparation goes, they’re easy to make, relatively healthy, and extremely satisfying. It’s hard not to love the creamy, spiced filling and hard-boiled exterior. There’s just one question: How did they get their name? What’s so devilish about eggs anyway? And what deems a food worthy of such seemingly satanic praise?
It turns out, the history goes back further than you think. The first documented usage for the word “devil” as a culinary term dates back to 1786 when, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was used to describe a “(highly seasoned) fried or boiled dish.” By 1800, the term “deviling” caught on and was primarily used to refer to the process of making a spicy or condiment-laden dish, like ham or even kidneys, as was common for the time.
The OED claims,”the term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell.” This association makes sense. Even while the spice level of deviled eggs can definitely vary based on filling ingredients, they certainly have the potential to pack heat. I mean, you can literally put anything in a deviled egg. Beyond mustard, mayo and paprika, you can throw in cayenne, kimchi, and even wasabi to kick it up a notch. At their mildest, they are still heavily seasoned and chock-full of condiments, so the original “deviled” definition still holds up.
But not everyone is on board with the hellish food terminology. In many regions of the U.S., deviled eggs are commonly known as “stuffed eggs,” “dressed eggs,” “salad eggs” or even “mimosa eggs.” Pretty much any word other than “devil” can be used, especially when served in the context of church functions. (No one wants to invite Satan to the picnic!) Lower calorie versions that use light mayonnaise have even been called “angel eggs” to connote their healthier aspects. But whatever you end up calling them, one fact remains the same –they taste delicious!
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