Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The fine line between sweet and surreal

You know the relative who seems perfectly sweet-- feeds stray cats, takes in the neighbors' mail when they're on vacation, makes your favorite no-bake cookies if you might stop by-- who can suddenly veer into surreal territory? A visit is fine until suddenly you're inching closer and closer to the door, agreeing it makes perfect sense that fairies keep watch over her slippers so she won't lose them.

"'Do-it-together' Butter Cookies" from Pillsbury (undated, but it contains a cookie cutter offer that expired in November 1965) makes me think of that relative. The cover looks sweet enough:

Pretty little cookies party with slightly lopsided figures. (I love the bearded tiger ready to topple into the windmill...) The "Do-it-together" title suggests some kind of activities with the kids, and the figures are a hint as to what it might be.

Part of this booklet's raison d'etre is to pimp the modeling mixture recipe as a way to sell more flour while promising a crafty afternoon.

Full disclosure: I LOVED playing with this stuff when I was little-- and even when I was not-so-little. My first Christmas tree as an adult was mostly covered with painted cutout modeling mixture ornaments because that's what I could afford.

Pillsbury is so sold on the modeling mixture, though, that things go a bit off the rails. Need a holiday gift box or cookie jar?

Pillsbury suggests covering a cereal box or nut canister with modeling mixture. Okay, maybe you could get away with a nut-canister cookie jar, but even the model gift box, festively tied with a red ribbon, looks like it would weigh twice as much as whatever gift gets crammed inside and like it would fall apart the second the recipient tried to open it.

Some scenes in the booklet straddle the line between sweet and demented:

I think this is supposed to be a holiday scene, judging from the modeling mixture elves (even though one is apparently drunk and has crawled away to sleep it off next to the cookie tray), the gingerbread-looking people, staring in quiet awe at the ceiling, and the French angels, melting majestically into the harvest-gold table. I have no holiday-related explanation for Humpty Dumpty waving creepily from his brick wall, though, so I could be wrong.

The "Funny Cookie Men" are more cute than frightening...

...but only barely. The drawing on the recipe is surprisingly accurate to the photo above, with its wonky cookies vacantly staring up at the reader. (Well, the second from the left looks like he's trying not to tell you that you forgot to put on your deodorant today, but otherwise they're pretty blank.)

The angels seem a bit scarier, composed of dirty cobwebs and in various stages of melting down to little brown puddles:

The recipe doesn't sound bad, but it is a lot of work for cookies that are as likely to inspire gasps of horror as gasps of delight.

If that picture wasn't enough, you know you're in surreal territory when you get to the droopy Santa:

One whose reindeer may have had really bad diarrhea right before he walked through their stalls, judging by the look of his boots. (At least I hope they're boots!) The modeling mixture can even make lumpy trees to hang out in the background, predatory trees that do not feel their lives are complete until they have impaled cookies on their spines and left them to hang there as a warning to the rest of the cookie herd.

What a fun afternoon sad Santa and the nightmare trees will have, helping with such kid-pleasing recipes as this:

Kids love fruit cake, right, with all the raisins and prunes and coffee?

Wait a minute! Is Santa sad because his reindeer got into these cookies? That could explain the boots. It's all starting to make sense....

Happy Wednesday! May yours be mostly sweet with just the right touch of crazy!


  1. French angels? Nay, they are DEMONS! ;-)

    1. I much prefer that interpretation! Helps explain their raggedy, forlorn appearance...