I had heard of this spot for years; read articles and seen TV segments about it, and emailed with its creator. As a deviled eggs master, it was my destiny to make a pilgrimage, and I finally did.
Marie Lawrence invited me into the deviled egg room – it’s floor to ceiling full of the servers. The latest count is 915. Marie is going for 1,000 and maybe a Guinness record. Like snowflakes, no two in her collection are exactly alike; she keeps a record book with descriptions, dates she acquired them and other information to make sure.
After 15 years of collecting, her cooperative husband Donald’s handmade shelves are stuffed so full that the plates have begun to spill over into glass cases in the living room of their Morehead City home. They want to do something about that, maybe add on. The center of the display
room has barely enough open space for a chicken to make a nest. But it’s enough room for Marie to start the day with a smile, surrounded by color, enjoying her efforts.
“When I first got started, I used to have a rocking chair in here and I would just sit and enjoy them,” she says. “Now, I stand here in the morning with a cup of coffee.”
All those plates have to make you smile, with their hues, shapes, bunny faces and dancing chicks. A yellow one that a friend bought for Marie on a Disney cruise ship is shaped like Mickey’s face and ears. How appropriate, because this little place is like a Magic Kingdom.
The first plate she got, that started it all, is unusual. It’s bowl-shaped, with a goose head at
the left side and spots for just six eggs on the right. She thinks it was meant to also serve potato salad or egg salad with the deviled eggs. The newest in the collection, which a friend found at a Salvation Army thrift shop a couple of weeks ago, resembles a basket of tulips with 12 oval pink, purple and yellow sections for the eggs.
Naturally, Easter, bunnies and chickens are predominant themes. There are a lot of Christmas ones, too, but even some with Thanksgiving and Irish looks. One of the largest is an Italian plate with spaces for deviled eggs and antipasto that could double as a centerpiece. The smallest looks like a covered ceramic bowl small enough to fit in your palm. Remove the lid, and there are spaces for two eggs – sort of like tea for two.
There’s a plate shaped like an oak leaf with acorn salt-and-pepper shakers. One of my favorites is made up of bright orange carrots pointing in all directions. On the few occasions that Marie has exhibited the collection to the public, she says people have been attracted to one that looks like a violet-printed cloth draped in a basket.
There are ceramic, pottery, glass and pewter plates. One with a wooden handle is shaped like a frying pan. I noticed that there were N.C. State and UNC plates, but no Duke one. Surely Blue Devils eat deviled eggs. “I haven’t seen any Duke plates,” Marie says.
Naturally, she can make a mean deviled egg, too. Marie and Donald used to have a catering
business. She was kind enough to have some for me to taste using mayonnaise (Hellmann’s not Duke’s; she prefers the flavor and texture), mustard, a dash of Texas Pete hot sauce and paprika or dill on top.
I assumed that the super-creamy filling was made in a food processor, but Marie said she makes the filling using a collard chopper, which has a circle of razor-sharp teeth for prepping piles of greens.
She does make an addition to her filling that I’m going to try. If she’s making two dozen deviled eggs, she cooks two more eggs and chops them all – whites and yolks – into the filling. It does make a substantial filling.
Deviled egg plates…deviled egg cookbook….seems like there’s something we could come up with together. Stay tuned.