Few desserts begin with a fond remembrance of a childhood pet duck. This pavlova does.

Sunshine kept us company. She maintained a snug wooden home, a shallow plastic pond and a spacious pen—but she preferred to waddle the backyard, especially after we’d had a picnic. That duck loved French fries. She would swing one orange foot, then the other, swaying her way toward a paper bag on the grass. She’d tip in her beak, dive and come up triumphant with fry. Wriggling it down, she’d pause for a brief, appreciative quack.

Summer, she paced the sidelines while we climbed the geodesic dome. Fall, she watched us plummet into the mulch pile, squealing at worms. Winter, she settled into her hutch, though once, when she had pneumonia, Dad carried her to a convalescent nest in the basement. (How did we know our duck had pneumonia? No idea.) Spring, I’d pad outside early and grope the warm straw for a heavy, stippled egg. Way bigger, way better than the kind from a carton. Cracked and poached, each billowed bright white and glowed glossy yellow, happy as sunlight.

One night Mom and Dad gathered everyone in the living room. “It’s the Family Happy Meeting,” I announced. But it wasn’t. Sunshine was gone. Did we stage a memorial? Take down her pen? Surely we never again gathered duck eggs. But Sunshine—with her white football torso, her splayed orange feet, her quizzical beak pierced with two neat nostrils, like the recorders we all played—remains. She’s standing in the Minnesota grass, keeping watch, each time I peer back to those days of wind and sunshine.

Sunny-Side Up Pavlovas
Credit: Cameron Sadeghpour

Get the recipe for Sunny-Side Up Pavlovas here. The perfect eggs Sunshine gifted my family each spring inspired my recipe for crisp, mini meringues topped with cream and lemon curd.