We’d put money on it: There is no person in Baltimore who likes deviled eggs quite as much as Martine Richards.
In fact, the 36-year-old Remington resident loves the hard-boiled, half-moon-shaped, mayonnaise-heavy hors d’oeuvre so much, she created a party for the sole purpose of being able to eat as many as she’d darn well like.
“There is absolutely deviled egg etiquette—when you got to a party, it is acceptable to be witnessed eating two deviled eggs,” reports Richards. “After that, if the party is going a little longer, and if you can be sneaky about it, you can take a third. And then, at the very end, if there are still any left—which there probably won’t be—then you can take a fourth.”
On the other hand, being caught devouring a sixth or seventh, as she typically longs to do? “Absolutely not,” she says with mock horror.
So in 2012, the Baltimore Deviled Egg Pageant was born. At first, it was just 30 friends in her living room who brought their own iteration of the event’s namesake finger food and, by popular vote, competed to see who made the best one.
But despite that dish’s polarizing reputation—there are usually two camps: those who like deviled eggs, and those who despise them, the latter of whom Richards calls “just wrong”—the competition soon outgrew her home, with more and more friends of friends and then complete strangers wanting to get in on the fun.
“I believe that everyone is an artist, in whatever capacity they can be,” says Richards, an instructional technologist of education courses, who, in her other side hustle, also crafts everything from jewelry to art prints and has been a longtime participant in the American Visionary Art Museum’s Small Foods Party (where her first entry was, fittingly, deviled quail eggs). “This is art…this is very Baltimore art.”
Those masterpieces will be on display this month, when the pageant returns on Sept. 10 at Charm City Meadworks in Johnston Square. Some 30 contestants will craft a spread of culinary creations that have ranged from Richards’ own famous sushi egg mixed with Sriracha mayo and speckled with seaweed, to a disco-fry egg topped with frites and a glittery gravy, and even egg-shaped cakes and corndogs.
“Last year, I made a Denver omelet as a cocktail,” says Brendan Dorr, co-owner of the Dutch Courage gin bar in Old Goucher, who hosted the event last year. “It was bacon-washed white whiskey with a little corn liqueur and a tomato-bell pepper foam on top, garnished with chives and a little grind of black pepper.”
In the past, Dorr has also been one of the pageant’s three judges. Attendees cast ballots as well, for categories like “Best Tasting,” “Best Presentation,” and “Best Not-an-Egg,” which are then eligible for the crowning title of “Best Egg in Show,” replete with a special plaque, sash, and tiara. Of course, there is a “Martine’s Choice” award, too.
“The first thing that I notice when I take a bite is: Did they use enough salt?” says Richards, who also likes thoughtful garnishes, clean fillings, and dyeing for more than just color, such as with beets or turmeric. “It should add flavor, too.”
With a knowing laugh, the host describes her event as an initial frenzy of excitement—all walks of Baltimore who have gathered to take this silly thing rather seriously. They eat their fill (and then some). Then, inevitably, they get tired, often rolling home before the winners are announced.
“It’s tons of fun,” says Dorr emphatically. “It also gives you a bit of a bellyache.”
Tickets proceeds (this year’s event has already sold out) benefit the Baltimore Abortion Fund, where Richards sits on the board.
Last year, the pageant raised some $6,000, and she feels a humble sense of awe for both the city’s creativity and its support for a good cause. The pageant’s quirky and quintessentially Baltimore nature gives her a feeling that maybe, just maybe, surpasses the sheer joy of finally getting to eat deviled eggs to her heart’s content.
“It just makes me hopeful,” she says.