In this, there is no conundrum: You must begin with the chicken. An Appenzeller Spitzhauben is best; silver birds, if you can obtain them, make the most picturesque backdrop for dining out of doors. We understand one another, this chicken and I. I can look into one of her eyes and know her father wished for her to become a surgeon, and into the other and see her conflicting dreams of becoming an astronaut. Instead, she busies herself in the poultry yard, patrolling for insects and pausing only to cock her head at the sky, observe a passing satellite, and wish, and wonder.
Appenzeller Spitzhauben are prized for their fertility and regularity. In this, we also understand one another. The ideal egg measures a precise 5.08 centimeters in diameter; a deviled egg of my creation, whether too large or too small, would still outshine even the gaudiest dishes of the most prestigious picnics, but no matter: The birds know my mind. Underproportioned eggs are taken away for mayonnaise; overgrown specimens are nudged back under the hens by the hens themselves, to be ushered into life already knowing that perfection is the only defense against an increasingly imperfect universe, and that they themselves draw breath only due to having consumed too voraciously in the womb to be suitable themselves for consumption before they were even birds. There is a conundrum.
One dozen Appenzeller Spitzhauben eggs, lowered into already boiling pot, will cook in precisely 11 minutes. You may use this time to make the mayonnaise. Let your wrist be respectful but unyielding in the mayonnaise bowl. These yolks were unsuitable for decorative purposes, but they have a purpose still; at the same time, Dante’s Limbo showed no mercy to the unborn, and neither must you.
Cool and peel the boiled eggs in an ice bath of glacier water, and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cleave each egg in two with the implacable cruelty of a scorned lover, remove the yolks, and fold them into the mayonnaise with the all-knowing caresses of an old lover. The balance is not difficult.
Crack a mustard seed between your teeth. The ardent joy of wild summer should spread across your tongue like July applause at Centre Court. If this sensation is not immediately forthcoming, find a new plant. Repeat as necessary. Scatter seeds over the yolk mixture and stir.
The children should be returned from their truffling expedition by this time. Shave the mushrooms directly into the mixing bowl, and explain to them how scarcity can elevate the mundane to the sublime. The babies may not fully grasp this concept, but the girls are nearly 6, and absorb every word with solemn nods and the light of understanding behind their eyes.
The ill-informed chef would here add paprika. It is my unwavering belief that this spice is best left to the gauche, and to the Spanish.
Summoning all of your strength, the bile of every errant shot, whip the yolk mixture until the egg filling is aerated enough to form a precise model of the Matterhorn in the bowl. Pipe into egg halves. The shape of the piping bag tip I leave between you and your God, but let no more than a six-pointed star be used. These deviled eggs do not preen. Their perfection is a matter of fact that is as simple as it is irrefutable. Arrange the eggs on a platter. White porcelain is the only acceptable material for this task; sterling silver belongs to second place and grandmothers’ teatime.
Collect the most verdant chives from your garden and position the ends under your finest knife — I prefer the Masanobu Damascus Santoku for this task. Chop at precise 1/64-inch intervals. Do not cast so much as a fleeting second glance at the chopped pile. Trust infinitely in your own precision. Sprinkle 11 chive bits onto each filled egg half, taking care not to bruise the herbs as they are distributed.
Carry the platter in both hands down to the shoreline. Balance it on three rocks for stability. Remember your mother’s laugh as the mists spiral upward from the surface of Lake Zurich and dissipate in frightful anticipation of the sun. Return indoors after the platter has cooled, but before dew begins to collect on the surface of the eggs.