Cooking With Myra: Refusing to grow old

By Myra Starkey
Sept. 18, 2012 at 4:18 a.m.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

I never really think of myself as getting old.

This is despite obvious clues, such as a birthday cake laden with so many candles that they could only be lit all at once with great difficulty. Your friends don't actually want to buy that many candles anyway, so they just put a few trick candles on top, which automatically spark back to life and are actually more annoying than entertaining.

More evidence of my aging is the fact that to see anything up close I need a separate set of eyeglasses, so I have strategically placed these all over my house.

It is not really true that you are as old as you feel because a 51-year-old heart has still been beating a long time, and my 51-year-old sun damaged and loosening skin just doesn't look or feel like it did when I was 19.

Still, I continue to look in the mirror and the face that smiles back is almost the same one I have been looking at for 51 years.

Last weekend, two of my friends attended the hummingbird festival in Rockport with me. My daughter, Hannah, called to ask what our weekend plans were and when I told her we were going in search of the energetic creatures. "Mom, you are way too young to be going to hummingbird festivals," she said. Obviously, she is mistaken.

Janet, Laura and I slathered ourselves with sunscreen, put on straw hats and loaded up into Janet's Mini-Cooper convertible and headed to the festival. We thought of this as an opportunity to go to garden tours, see lots of hummers, drink Sonic cherry limeade slushes and laugh at each other's stories for an entire day.

We arrived and purchased tickets to a lecture about attracting birds by using certain types of plants. This was long and technical and almost beyond our attention span for a Saturday.

We then headed off to the vendor area, which was a cafeteria and gymnasium filled with items, such as yard art hummingbird whirly-gigs, pottery with hummingbird motifs, hummingbird feeders, plants that would attract hummingbirds, hummingbird photography, hummingbird paintings and hummingbird T-shirts.

I lingered more in the plant area of the sale and bought a couple of plants, which promised to entice the birds to stay in my yard. In reality, I think that most hummers would choose a feeder full of red sugar water over any plant.

Laura walked quickly through the exhibitors lingering only briefly at the photo exhibits.

Janet gravitated to the Nikon vendor to check out the new scopes and lenses.

We had separated at the door hoping to cover more area and report back to each other since our time was limited.

Being an acute observer of human behavior, I spotted large crowds entering through a north door, all eating different types of ice creams.

I gathered my friends and did what any 50-something female would do, I went in search of the ice cream vendor. This turned out to be a Schwann's salesman giving away free ice cream products. He only had diet fudgesicles left and these tasted rather dietetic.

In our lecture and other informational encounters, we did learn some interesting facts about hummingbirds such as:

1. Hummingbirds cannot walk or hop, though their feet can be used to scoot sideways while they are perched.

2. The average ruby-throated hummingbird weighs about 3 grams. A nickel weighs 4.5 grams. From 25-30 percent of a hummingbird's weight is in its pectoral muscles, the muscles principally responsible for flight.

3. A hummingbird's maximum forward flight speed is 30 mph, though the birds can reach up to 60 mph in a dive.

4. A hummingbird must consume about one half of its weight in sugar daily, and the average hummingbird feeds five to eight times per hour.

5. A hummingbird's wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second. An average hummingbird's heart rate is more than 1,200 beats per minute and it make take 250 breaths per minute.

6. The ruby-throated hummingbird flies 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both its spring and fall migrations.

7. The life span of a hummingbird is between three to 12 years.

8. Hummingbirds do not suck nectar through their long bills, they lick it with forked tongues.

9. Hummingbirds are native species of the New World and are not found outside of the Western Hemisphere.

10. Hummingbirds can hear better than people and see farther than people.

(Information taken from various websites including and )

Next we drove from one garden-tour yard to another in search of what I consider the most beautiful tiny bird, the ruby-throated hummingbird. We thought we were by far the youngest of the festival attendees with the exception of small children attending with their grandparents.

But as I began to meet other "birders" (I was only masquerading as one) I realized that they were often the same age as me. I tried to convince Janet and Laura of this fact but they refused to believe it. I think it is because none of us want to consider ourselves middle-aged.

At one point, we pulled into an abandoned strip center to look at the tour map. Janet happened to catch our reflection in the glass window and said something about it. I turned to look at our image and saw three middle-age ladies in large straw hats sitting in a convertible having a grand time, and I thought how nice it was to be able to grow old with friends. We were no longer overly concerned that our hair was flattened by our hats or that we were windblown and had long ago lost our lipstick. We were having fun.

Later, we had to stop by H-E-B to pick up a few things, and I returned to the parking lot to see Laura sitting in the convertible covered with a huge floral umbrella. "I was hot," she said. Who sits in a convertible under an umbrella? Someone too old to get out of the car.

I prepared a dessert that night of perhaps the most delicious, decadent, chocolaty coconutty concoction called Nanaimo bars. They don't appear in many cookbooks, but I learned about them from a journalist friend who grew up in Canada. She gave me the recipe, which I promptly lost, but never forgot about the bars. Recently, I saw a recipe in Saveur magazine and it revived my desire to make them. Wow. They were the perfect end to a wonderful day.

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



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