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Chirping birds and edible nests

Mark loves Easter! See photos of Mark's Easter decoartions in the photos section.

Easter always brings with it wonderful memories of my childhood. The menagerie includes crowded worship services, pristine white lilies, fresh new outfits and hats, hopping Easter bunnies, competitive egg hunts, chirping birds, chocolate and brightly colored eggs. Nestled deep within my memory banks, these images surround me with a feeling of rebirth and new beginnings. Spring is truly a magical time of year where nature shoves away the dull and ushers in a bright, new season.

For some reason this takes me back to kindergarten. Talk about rebirth. Why is it the older we get the more we remember our youth?

When I think of my days in kindergarten, my mind vividly conjures up a fun room filled with smells of new and old books, sweaty youngsters hard at play, bluish purple mimeographed handouts and thick paste. I can still see my teacher, Miss Betty, as she was known to us, commanding attention as the ruler of our class. She was a pleasant woman with a wonderful smile. I loved her. I especially loved the creative sessions of our day. You know, where I first learned to go out and create something beautiful. Our little playhouse sat high atop a hill and really reminded me of a cottage from a fairy tale. Every morning when we were dropped off for our day of learning and fun, Miss Betty eagerly awaited us with open and caring arms. We thought this class was made just for us kids to have fun, but since I have had kids of my own, I realize that it was for our parents as much as ourselves. Parents certainly need a break!

Our playroom had three large tables with little children’s chairs neatly placed around them. The tables were named the Papa Bear Table, the Mama Bear Table, and the Baby Bear Table. Clever and inventive, don’t you think? Miss Betty had named them for a very important reason. You sat at the table that represented how you behaved that particular day. A seat at the Baby Bear Table meant that you were not well behaved. Being raised right, even then, I made it my goal to never sit there.

One Easter, Miss Betty cooked us a very special surprise. She made us edible bird nests filled with little candy eggs. They were delicate and beautiful. I was amazed! I still remember saving my nest the whole day, on a grease-stained napkin, to show my mother when she picked me up that afternoon. I knew we had to make some of our own. Mother asked Miss Betty for the recipe the next day. We made nests for everyone we knew that Easter.

When I got ready to compile my first cookbook a few years ago, I knew I had to include those edible bird nests. I dug through my mother’s stained and old recipes until I came upon the one that read Miss Betty’s Nests. I was transported, at the speed of light, right back to being a child. It was a wonderful feeling. But what made it so special was that it was written in Mother’s handwriting on the original envelope. Now that she is gone, the nest recipe is even more special!

Take a few extra minutes to make some of these nests with your children this Easter. Who knows, they may have the same memories one day!

Miss Betty’s Macaroon Bird Nests
5 to 6oz. Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut*
1 T. cornstarch
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla flavoring
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
*-The amount of coconut will vary depending on the size of egg whites you use.

Begin with 6 ounces unless egg whites are small. Grease a baking sheet and dust with flour. Mix coconut thoroughly with cornstarch and sugar and set aside. Whip egg whites until frothy. Add salt and beat until stiff. Stir in vanilla. Gradually stir in the coconut mixture, adding enough to give a crumbly, not wet, texture. Shape into nests, placing on the cookie sheet. Bake approximately 20 minutes in moderate oven or until golden brown.