Easter candies and other early signs of spring


March 08, 1993|By JACQUES KKELLY

The calendar says spring arrives a week from this Saturday.

Don't believe it.

Baltimoreans know the season of rebirth and kinder temperatures moves in a little earlier.

For one thing, the candy makers in the Rheb-Harger family of Southwest Baltimore go into butter cream Easter egg production tomorrow. This event could mark any local calendar as the surest sign that there's a delightful change in the weather.

"We've been making the coconut, fruit 'n' nut, bon-bon, pecan, marshmallow, raspberry and caramarsh Easter eggs for a little while now. But we hold off on the butter creams until it's a little closer to Easter. But we'll start making them on Tuesday," says Esther Rheb Harger, one of the great ladies of Baltimore candy production.

She speaks from authority.

Her father, Louis Rheb, founded the family firm just over 75 years ago. There are those who say that Easter Sunday is a waste without a Rheb's egg carried home from the Lexington Market.

She's also making the hollow and solid chocolate Easter bunnies these days. Another sign the robins aren't far away.

Speaking of birds, these weeks bring the forgotten words "Baltimore Orioles" back into the active vocabulary. Eli Jacobs is getting bad word-of-mouth lately, but so are the Oriole ticket people who are trying to palm off exhibition game tickets on people who want opening-day seats.

It's been great to hear -- and eavesdrop on -- conversations about how this year it will be possible to get back to Memorial Stadium to see baseball again. It'll be interesting to see how many people really make the trip back to 33rd Street or whether they'll just yak about how there are going to do it.

By tradition, Baltimoreans should be pounding their forks on the table for platters of shad and its roe this time of the year. Local custom demands this, but Bill Devine, of Faidley's Seafood, regrets that the fish just isn't as popular as it once was.

"The young people just don't know about it. It's a great fish, full of flavor. People should try some boned shad stuffed with crab meat," Devine says.

Nancy Devine, his wife and winner of national awards for her crab cakes, would like to see people smoke shad on their grills.

"Yes, shad is a fishy fish," she says. "But all those flavors come out over the coals."

Shad is a migratory fish that makes a trip from Florida to the Hudson each year. It'll get to Maryland around Easter, April 11.

People used to buy spring outfits, but today they break out the Bermuda shorts when the temperatures break out in the upper 40s and 50s.

There have been Baltimore shorts spottings for days now. In a few more weeks, the ladies dressed in their poly-cotton dusters (housecoats) will start making appearances on the white marble steps.

Jogging season has started in much athletic earnest.

During last week's heavy rains, a running man was out in the darkest parts of Sudbrook Park at 10:30 p.m. The rain and a little light snow were lashing around. Electrical power lines had blown down in one place, but that was not going to be an impediment to this fellow, layered in Spandex and decorated with reflective safety stripes.

The mourning doves have been cooing their sad chorus for days, as well. In general, the sound of the birds is the best alarm clock in the world.

Baltimore's downtown and older neighborhoods possess a microclimate. Trees have been budding for weeks.

The daffodils -- late this year because of the nasty and cold February -- are about 6 inches out of the ground, but not showing any real color yet.

But perhaps the truest sign of a Baltimore spring is the fact that most, although not all, of last Christmas' wreaths have been taken down.

Baltimoreans make it a point of pride to keep their pinecone and evergreen wreaths up for weeks and weeks. Are they trying to get full value for their money, or are they just lazy?

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