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Letter from the Editor | Messy, Messy December

Updated December 1, 2019
What is Christmas Crack and why it might be the only thing I bake this year—this and more, behind the scenes at Tablespoon this month.

A Story About Christmas Crack

This past Friday, I got a last-minute invite to go over to a friend’s house for a holiday-movie marathon after work. “Bring something with you if you feel like it! Or not!” she said in typical Midwest-fashion (if you’re not from the Midwest, we’re very good at being indirect when asking for things). I knew I had a bottle of wine in my fridge that I could tote along, but seeing as how we had a full evening of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Love Actually ahead of us, I knew we needed more than drinks. We needed food. I briefly considered hitting up the grocery store on my way to her house to pick up chips or something, but that felt like a cop out. Then I remembered a recipe I had seen that only required five ingredients, all of which I knew I had in my cupboards. I grabbed a box of saltine crackers, some chocolate chips, a stick of butter and some brown sugar (the fifth ingredient was pecans, but I didn’t have anything—good thing they were optional!). I then set to work making a quick batch of saltine cracker toffee. You’ve probably heard it referred to as “Christmas crack,” which to be fair is a pretty fitting title, considering that I’m completely hooked on it now that I’ve tasted it. This recipe is crazy-easy. I lined a sheet-pan with saltine crackers, then cooked my butter and sugar together on the stove for about 3 minutes to create the impatient person’s version of caramel. The buttery-sweet sauce got poured over the crackers, then I popped the whole thing in the oven for a handful of minutes so everything could cook together. To finish, I dropped chocolate chips on the hot crackers, which caused them to melt, then smeared them across my sugary masterpiece. I tossed some sea salt over the pan before setting it in the freezer for a quick chill, and a few minutes later, I was out the door.

I’m telling you this story because sometimes I forget how simple holiday activities can be. There’s a lot of pressure, external or self-induced, for things this time of year to be just so. Pressure to throw Pinterest-perfect parties, to give our children the magic of the holidays as we remember it, to bake near-perfect cookies and to do it all in one month. There’s just no way one person can do every festive thing before the 25th—not in a way that will be done well, and certainly not in an enjoyable way. And personally, I think all that pressure kind of kills the fun of the season. Getting in the holiday spirit can just mean watching Christmas flicks and drinking with your friends. It can mean standing outside at night and soaking in the quiet of twinkling lights. And it can be making easy, five-ingredient “Christmas crack” rather than cookies, because honestly, that stuff is better than cookies anyway. It’s crazy-good, and it’s the perfect sweet snack to munch on while watching Hugh Grant fall in love with his maid (personal assistant? I was too busy enjoying the toffee to pay attention to the details of that movie). In short, if saltine cracker toffee is the only holiday treat I make this season, I’ll be happy, because being festive doesn’t mean checking off a box in a long list of activities. It’s more about enjoying what’s actually happening around you.

Current Happenings—It’s Getting Messy

Our whole mantra this holiday season is, “Pressure off, party on.” Which is to say, we’re going to be sharing a slew of ways to take pressure off by helping you with the planning and prep of the holidays so that you can focus on the bigger picture, which is to just have fun. Whether you’re planning to throw a party in your tiny apartment or you just need to get dinner on the table every night of the week, we’ve been working on quite a few clever solutions to December struggles. Trying to figure out what to cook for Christmas dinner? We have several menus to choose from. Sick of cookies? There are other ways to eat sweets and still be festive. Wondering what your favorite Christmas cookie says about you? Probably not, but we have the answer to that anyway. No matter what your version of a merry Christmas looks like, there’s no reason to be stressed out about it.

There is a lot going on this month, hence the messiness. It’s the best kind of mess, though. An exciting, frenetic, sugary-sweet mess (we’ve been decorating a lot of cookies around here, so it feels like our fingers are just forever sticky). We’re really excited that Holiday Hacks are back, starting today! We’re sharing all our hacks on our Instagram and Facebook, and this year I’m actually going to be showing you how to do some of our hacks! We’ll be posting videos and articles to walk you through some of our favorite festive shortcuts. If you’re not following us on social media—um, what are you waiting for? You seriously don’t want to miss out on these life hacks. Unless you just like passing up on opportunities to make your life more awesome.

Looking Ahead

And just like that, 2019 is almost over. I’m one of those people who gets the post-holiday blues, so I’m proactively planning activities after Christmas to keep me busy. Keep an eye out, because we’ll be sharing some of those activities here on Tablespoon. The recipe developers and I have been experimenting in the kitchen with unfamiliar ingredients (hint—they’re Korean!), and we’re excited to share our findings so you can experiment, too. Keeping busy in the kitchen is a pretty effective way to avoid being bogged down by seasonal affective disorder. You’re keeping your brain active, your kitchen is nice and warm thanks to heat coming off the oven and, in the end, there’s hopefully some good food. Wins all around.

But for now, the holidays are in front of us and there’s still lots of merriment to enjoy. Happy holidays, everyone! Be mindful not to overfill your schedule and to-do lists, and take some time to yourself, too. Here’s wishing you a holiday season that’s merry and bright.