Scorch Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

by Beth Bartlett

My inability to cook is famed in our family. After years of suffering through my attempts at holiday meals (the green bean casserole may not have been edible, but it makes a lovely planter) my loved ones became proactive. Every women’s magazine I picked up had large holes cut in them where recipes should be and cooking sites were banned in my browser as if they were naughty pictures of George Clooney.  This left me in the acceptably safe zone of processed foods, like my famous Scorch-n-Serve rolls, a tiny turkey roast in a cardboard pan that always ended up crispy (who knew those little pans were so flammable?) and Stove Top stuffing, which even I could not mess up. 

And then it happened.

A good friend gave me a holiday snack mix recipe. I snatched it up like it was the last toilet paper at Woodstock.  I had visions of filling cute Santa-covered jars with tasty treats, and watching a sincere smile come across my mother’s face after ingesting something I made instead of seeing that vein throb in her forehead again.

After a quick run to the store for supplies, I looked over the recipe again and realized that I could be in trouble. Do I still have a mixing bowl? The last time I saw the measuring spoons was when I doled out cat wormer. Years ago I discarded my pantry full of Vesuvius cookie sheets with the tragic shadows of long-burned cookies permanently etched into the metal. And I had to clean the toaster oven. Correction: I had to find the toaster oven first.

Once I began, I still had a lot of questions. How many empty Lean Cuisine trays make up one cup? If you use aluminum foil to bake snack mix, how do you turn it? Or can you just ball it up and wait for it to explode like Jiffy Pop? Did I use too much molasses? Why did the wooden spoon break? My mother was no help and after the third call she muttered something about starting a new hobby of drinking in the evening. So I was on my own.

I fired up the oven, accidentally giving a giant spider a hotfoot, and shoved the mixture in. I’ve tried these types of holiday treats before.

When I decided to make little gingerbread figures for Christmas, my husband walked through the kitchen, saw the glowing oven and disappeared. Half an hour later, he reappeared in body paint and glowsticks in either hand and waited in front of the oven door until smoke started seeping out.

“What are you doing?” I asked as I slipped on the oven mitts and waved away the smoke.

“Celebrating Burning Man,” he replied, cranking up the stereo as tiny, flaming gingerpeople emerged from the stove.

But this time, no smoke. Instead, a gorgeously yummy aroma wafted through the house.

“Did you just light a scented candle?” yelled hubby from the back office.

“No, I’m baking!” I shouted. I heard a heavy sigh. And the timer went off.

I learned several things: fresh snack mix is very hot and molasses is difficult to get out of cat fur.

And even I can’t completely mess up a great recipe.  It made the hubby smile.
Now I’m off to buy Santa jars.

photo credit: bullexsafety.com


  1. Loved it. :-)

    This sounds like my attempts at cooking, too. ;)


  2. Hey, were we separated at birth or something? Cuz I can burn down the house trying to boil water. ;)

  3. Kudos for your efforts. Happy Holidays!

  4. I thought I smelled something when the wind turned north . . .

    For Thanksgiving, the guest of honor was my husband's bestest friend who happens to also be a total gourmet chef. He kept asking me where I had assorted exotic cooking tools (what is this thing called a potato masher) before giving up. Even in my primitive enclave, he still managed to create a five-course meal that would make Martha Stewart go, "damn . . ."

    He now has his own cabinet in my kitchen. He stocks it, he washes it, he cooks with it and I promise to never touch it. Works out great!


  5. I think we're all from the 'Smokey the Bear' culinary academy! Stacey, you were spot on with that tag about McDonald's. One year a friend gave us a gift card. It was the best holiday dinner I ever served.

  6. I am the same way with cooking. I think I'm allergic. It's good to know other people have the same problems.

  7. *sniff* Just like mama used to make.

  8. Loved your column. I used to try to cook recipes by Martha Stewart but they were too complicated and used I couldn't understand. What are fresh ingredients? If a recipe doesn't have Campbells soup, American Cheese, and hamburger I don't use it.


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