This is the time of year when I usually have to take a break from social media. And no, it’s not the gratitude posts causing me to flee the Internet. I usually find that those go one of two ways. They’re either heartfelt or a not-so-humble brag wrapped around a Bible verse.
What’s making me retreat from my digital life is the Thanksgiving-themed cooking tips. I was actually feeling like I was letting my family down by not handcrafting marshmallows or cooking a pie where I butchered my own pumpkin. Yeah, that’s right, I said butchered and I know what I’m talking about because I shamelessly caved and let myself be the victim of kitchen peer pressure.
Emboldened by the experience of watching online cooking videos that made it on my Facebook news feed, I, with gusto, grabbed a handful of dish towels and attempted to embrace a 100 percent homemade Thanksgiving. Well, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. It’s more accurate to say I decided to try a few new recipes. This resulted in (in no particular order) crying, my oven catching on fire and gooey candy sugar doing at least $200 in damage to assorted pots and pans.
It all started with the oh so innocent sugar pumpkin. It’s a cute little thing, that sugar pumpkin. Who knew that cooking it would release a demon spirit that would not only slime my kitchen, but make the oven spontaneously combust.
Now, in case you’re wondering why I was cooking for Thanksgiving a week before the big day my answer is simple. It’s because I’m not an amateur. Anyone with a few deep-fried turkeys under their Williams Sonoma holiday botanical print apron knows you don’t try out new recipes the day before or (are you crazy?) Thanksgiving morning. No, you do any experimentation ahead of time.
This explains why I was slaughtering a pumpkin in my kitchen several days ago. The hint that things were going to go terribly, terribly wrong was when the first line item in the recipe was an ice pick. In fact, thinking back, the whole recipe sounded like an inventory for a dungeon. There was the pick, the serrated knife, the cleaver. Was I cooking a pumpkin or time traveling to the eighth century to be part of a murderous Viking rampage?
The ice pick was used to pierce holes in the pumpkin before it went into the microwave to “soften.” When I took it out after 10 minutes, it looked like a before picture for Proactive. All the holes I had poked in the pumpkin were oozing white stuff like plump zits that had just exploded. If that wasn’t bad enough I then had to cleave the thing in half and scoop out its guts.
Yes, I know everyone does the scoopy thing when they carve their Halloween jack-o-lantern, but you don’t do it to a hot gourd oozing pumpkin pus. After I had gutted the pumpkin, it went into my oven for 30 minutes to continue “softening.” The softening ritual was cut short when the stem of the pumpkin (Yeah, I left the stem on. So? The recipe didn’t mentioning any de-stemming.) caught fire. This wasn’t just a petite, ladylike blaze easily put out with a delicate sprinkling of baking soda. Oh no, this was an inferno that engulfed the entire oven. The good news: I finally got to use the fire extinguisher my husband had purchased five years ago.
Still shaky from almost burning my house down, I summoned my inner Martha Stewart and continued cooking. Next up was Martha’s marshmallows that required, thank God, zero oven time.
I would now like to go on the record and say homemade marshmallows are the worst idea ever. The recipe looks easy enough. Loads of sugar, Karo syrup and a gelatin pack or two and you’re good to go. The one thing Martha doesn’t tell you is that the combination of those ingredients might create marshmallows, but it also produces a space-age polymer with an bonding quality so advanced it could cement the cracks in the earth’s inner core.
I couldn’t get this goo off of me, my pots and pans, or (sniff, sniff ) my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer. I was like Edward Marshmallow Hands. I literally couldn’t even let my dog in the house because my fingers were stuck together, prohibiting me from opening the sliding glass door. Finally after using fingernail polish remover I got my hands clean and then began the harrowing and futile attempt to wash, chisel and otherwise rid my kitchen of sticky marshmallow muck.
Today, I’m still picking marshmallow out of my hair. So please, I beg of you, heed this cautionary tale and realize that some things, like pumpkin, are best out of a can and that mass produced marshmallows should be hailed as one of the great culinary feats of the last century.