This year’s Christmas cultural experiment came courtesy of a friend’s cookie exchange party. I think cookie exchanges have been around for a while. I don’t know if they happened when I was a kid, but if they did, I wouldn’t have known about them. I did know about rice crispy treats though. They were these amazing, gummy chunks of American decadence that you could get if you remembered to bring your dime to the bake sale in the gym at Bach Elementary School. A few times I saw them with the teensie weensie rainbow nonpareil sprinkles mixed in, which was like fairy dust as far as I was concerned.
Rice crispy treats have sort of stayed mysterious to me. As a child the intersection of two exotic, forbidden foods (boxed cereal and marshmallows) was hypnotic. As a young adult the same combination was sort of repulsive. But in my thirties I ate them a few times. My brother, who is generally a better confectioner than I, makes a mean brown butter rice crispy treat.
I don’t know how I came up with the idea of rice crispy wreaths for the cookie exchange. I think I started out thinking I would do green cornflake wreathes, which are haunting the internet this year, but since I don’t like cornflakes, I couldn’t get excited enough to try it. Then I had this weird idea of making little mini green rice wreathes. Fortunately my daughter asked me, when I mentioned it, if I was going to make one or many wreathes and I had the Eureka!/lightbulb/god shines light out of the clouds moment and realized I could make a single wreathe (so much easier). So I did.
I read up on rice crispy treat recipes to get a basic understanding of the ratio, used up all the stale marshmallows shoved in the back of the cupboard, plus some of the new ones I got just in case. I had never made rice crispy treats before, so fortunately it’s pretty easy. basically it’s butter, cereal and marshmallow. I added salt and maybe some vanilla. And green food coloring.
Fortunately I got it out on the plate before it started to seize up into cement. Then I added some decor. I had some weird vision of sprinkling colorful bits in a template, like a stencil, but I’ve tried that sort of gambit before. It never works like one sees in the Martha Stewart mags. (Does anyone actually refer to Martha anymore, or is it all just Pinterest?). I was pretty excited about the horrible crunchy sugar bows I found at Safeway.
Then I carted it off to my friend’s house, where it sat on the table with all the wedding cookies, chocolate chip, ginger, sugar cookies. I got some compliments on it. It even tasted good. When I posted a picture of me holding it with a goofy expression in front of the Christmas tree and the caption “Peak Cheer,” my friends and family seemed to rejoice with me. What I said first to my spouse, however, as I brandished the giant, avocado colored wreathe of marshmallow crispy was “I think I’ve hit peak whiteness.”