Cooking With Myra: Trading turkey, dressing for beach vacation

Dec. 6, 2010 at 6:06 a.m.
Updated Dec. 7, 2010 at 6:07 a.m.

Ginger's  Caramel Turtles

Ginger's Caramel Turtles

By Myra Starkey

I spent Thanksgiving Day reclining in a beach chair on the sugary, white sand, looking into the bright blue water of the Caribbean sea. Taylor's parents treated all the kids, and their families, to a beach vacation over the holidays instead of the traditional turkey and dressing feast. I will vote beach over any holiday, especially if you are celebrating with family.

Ever since we were young newlyweds, we have split our holidays, one holiday with Taylor's side of the family and the next with mine. So, if Thanksgiving was with my family last year, then it would be with Taylor's this year. All of our siblings on each side are on the same schedule, so our family feasts usually work out.

On the Starkey side, Taylor has four sisters, each with a husband and children. Our daughter, Hannah, is the first of Taylor's parent's grandchildren to wed, so the clan has grown in number to 27. The whole group has remained close because of their commitment to being together for these annual holidays. And that is a nice thing in a world where families seem to fall apart in all directions.

Our Thanksgiving reunion this year was south of Cancun near Playa del Carmen. I could hardly contain my excitement. We stayed at an all-inclusive place, so it was all-we-could-eat whenever we wanted. My only concern was that I would spend most of my days in a bathing suit, which is not something I have been keen on doing as I have gotten older and suffered the ravages of childbearing, over-consumption, under-activity and gravity.

Once I got to the beach, I realized that these same things plague all women, many of whom were wearing swimsuits that they had apparently never tried on in front of a mirror or had modeled them in front of a husband who was visually impaired or fearful of making any sort of critical comments.

My favorite pastime at the seashore is beachcombing for shells, but that area is usually not known for its shells. Fortunately, I spied a lady carrying conch shells, olive shells and cockles. She was carrying them like the treasures they were. When I inquired where she found these, she was rather vague, but pointed back down the beach and told me to look for the washed out area and that I would have to dig. I set out and hoped that I could find the spot.

About 30 minutes down the beach I saw about 10 people on their hands and knees digging in an eroded area of sand. Apparently, this shell-laden sand had been pumped in from offshore to fix an area on the beach that had eroded away in a storm. The scene looked like an archeological dig. I plotted an area and started digging.

Within an hour, I had unearthed two large conchs and several olive shells, but my hands were getting raw from so much digging. Others in the group would shout out when they found something, and we would all resume our excavation more motivated than ever.

I was covered with sunscreen, a hat and wore a long sleeve shirt, so I feared no sunburn. I realized if I was going to be really successful, I would need buckets to use to wash out the wall. I found two buckets and enlisted Taylor's assistance as my water boy.

We were finding lots of shells, until two uniformed men arrived on four wheelers doing a lot of shouting and gesturing. They were speaking Spanish, so I couldn't understand them. I finally figured out that they did not want us to erode this wall away because it was put there to protect the homes behind it. They did not give up until we got up with our buckets and started walking. My shell mining was over.

Our group enjoyed our days of beach, sunshine, meals together and laughing at old stories. I took home a sack of shells, but more importantly, new memories of time with family.

The first Monday I was back at the office, a patient dropped by with a box of homemade candy. Ginger is a wonderful cook who showers us with homemade goodies often. She has been moved to the top of our list of favorite patients. This week's treasures were caramel turtles, chocolate-covered pecans and pecan pie bars. She shows her love to us through the food she brings.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail



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