We are talking Easter this week and focusing on candy…what a loaded topic…
loaded with calories!
When I was little, Easter baskets were a real treat. I did not grow up in a religious family, so ‘giving up for Lent’ did not play into the equation, and candy wasn’t unknown in my house on average days, but Easter baskets were “special”. Certain candy only came out at Easter Time; there were no egg-shaped Snickers and Easter was the only time you saw jelly beans. Chocolate Easter bunny size was a status symbol; the older you became, the richer your folks, the bigger the rabbit. That usually went for the baskets themselves, too.
Most people had the standard reed baskets; thin, not meant to last. My mother had purchased a good-sized strong willow basket for my sister, made in China,(right after WWII); it looked like a boat; a Junk, but it was beautiful. For my brother, she bought a sturdy, square intricately woven, lovely basket from Germany,(again, same time frame). When I can along she bought a pretty little basket that was also sturdily constructed, (which I believe that was Japanese), made in the 50’s. It looked something like a purse. It had two knobs that opened the top, which needed to be left open for the Easter Bunny to leave much of anything in it. It was cute, but it was small, and although I was unhappy when one year while in storage a mouse ate a hole in it looking for whatever had left the sweet smells inside, I was definitely NOT unhappy when the replacement was a bigger,if less sturdy and commoner, one.
I held off as long as I could on my always-to-be-found chocolate rabbit after the Easter Bunny came. I remember nibbling at the most inconspicuous areas first and I also remember being horrified when my brother mercilessly bit the head of his right off! My sister never liked chocolate, so more often than not, my brother got a lion’s share of hers with a bit coming my way. My mother was a stickler for tradition and it was unheard-of NOT to get a chocolate rabbit for my sister. When the white chocolate ones came out she begrudgingly placed one of those beside my sister’s basket for the last years of her pre-adulthood; (as I said, Mom was a stickler for tradition).
Much of the candy I remember looked prettier than they tasted, since most were made with ‘summer coating’ or imitation chocolate. Pure chocolate requires specific temperature variations during the process of melting and molding to prevent “blooming”, when the cocoa butter separates and rises to the top.(If you have had a Hershey bar or the like get warm and re-solidify, you have seen the blotching.)Pure chocolate, especially milk chocolate, also melts at a lower temperature, so it is harder to store and ship, hence the “Palmer” and other brands of “artificial” chocolate that were famous and popular for a generation or more for Easter treats; they weren’t the greatest tasting candy on Earth.
A couple of weeks ago I walked down an Easter aisle in our local WalMart and stopped in my tracks. A vaguely familiar aroma aroused a memory that I could not quite nail down. It was such a strong experience that I pulled my cell phone out right there and then to call my sister for help. She came up with the lost memory; it was the ever-present, hard, meringue flowers that topped a number of confections in the 50’s and the 60’s, most commonly, on filled-eggs.
I never cared for the flavor-filled eggs or even the coconut ones, as much as I usually like coconut. However, the one thing I longed-for, looked forward to and ate minute-bit- by-bit to make them last were the pecan eggs that my mother always put in the middle of the baskets. They were large, covered in fresh pecans and had a fluffy, very-sweet white filling. How I loved them! How I tried to stretch the pecans to become at least part of the too-full, rather plain, middle. If I had had my way, a couple of those eggs would have been all I wanted. I never thought to ask for that.
I searched for years for comparable pecan eggs, to no avail. When I found some, the pecans seemed to be damp and chewy on some and the fillings were always wrong. Even the top brands had brown sugar or caramel-like filling. WalMart had logs about 20 years ago that had a slight cherry-like filling; they weren’t bad, but they weren’t the same. However, this week as I was leaving a local Dollar General Market, I saw smaller, but promising pecan eggs. I was in a hurry, but went back yesterday and bought a few, hoping against hope. I battled myself as to whether I should try them to see if they were as good as I hoped or to wait until Easter. I won/lost/won; I tried them…and they are the closest I have come in many, many years to the beloved eggs of my childhood. The filling is not as fluffy, the eggs are not as large, the candy that ‘glues’ the pecans on is a bit grainy, but, hey, after all these years, they are close, and I am smiling.
I hope you are smiling for Easter or whatever you are celebrating this Spring.
I wish all of you great blessings.
(Does anyone else remember that type of Pecan egg or the hard-candy flowers?)