Monday, March 27, 2006

The Persistence of Peeps

I think Jess meant it as a joke - a peeps diorama contest. My mom and I were converging on my sister's home for a late birthday celebration, and we thought a project might be in order. Unlike my house, which is constantly under construction, my sister's house has been recently, professionally, and beautifully remodeled, so it was unlikely that she'd allow house projects. It had to be something else. So, my sister sent the rules to my mom and me...

The contest appealed to our darkest selves.

I mean, I've spent a surprising amount of time manipulating, modifying and generally abusing peeps. Heaven knows, they're not meant for consumption. Do *you* know how many seconds it takes to properly nuke a peep? (Less than fifteen, varying by microwave wattage.) Or a technique for snipping peeps into tiny pieces like some cubist Easter nightmare? (Sharp scissors, rinsed clean between uses.) Or that peeps (of all celebrational varieties) make great toasted marshmallows? (Though I did blister the skin off my thumb by grabbing one by its bubbling sugar crust.) Put simply, he opportunity to abuse these marshmallowy innocents for fun and profit was not to be missed.

There were so many thematic options! I immediately felt that any peeps diorama should be made entirely of candy - I mean, it *is* Easter, after all. Anybody could prop up some peeps in a pre-fab Barbie Dream House, wouldn't it be much more fun to make it out of Necco Wafers? I also felt strongly that a peeps diorama should be *real* peeps - they should be yellow, and they should be chickies. I dandled the packages of purple bunnies in the drug store and tried to imagine them in scenes from Brokeback Mountain (*not* those scenes! Alright, yes, those scenes), but it all seemed too easy.

The first theme that started bouncing around was "We the Peeple," a peeps-only rendition of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This got sidelined by attempts to come up with peeps-oriented puns for our Founding Fathers. My mother's input of "Henjamin Franklin" was a noble, but unrepeated effort.

Then, the idea of creating a "Peep Show," which begged the question - how would a peep wear stockings? Having your mother ask the question: "Where would you put pasties on a Peep?" is enough to make most normal people quickly change their email address, but it just made these daughters discuss how to create peep cleavage.

(Also, after looking at an actual chickie peep in the store, I realized that it actually does look like, well, a pile of bright yellow poo with eyes. I contemplated buying a miniature toilet - no, I don't know where you'd get one either - placing the peep at the bottom and calling it "Peep or Poop?". I was too embarrassed to suggest it to my family, but come on, it's low-brow and high-brow! I love that!)

I began to assemble a crack-team of global experts to address the technical and philosophical difficulties we were bound to address. Valerie, now living in Italy, fielded questions like: "Would sour lemon laces make a good powdered wig for a Founding Father Peep?" My sister-in-law Sarah sent vital scientific peep research. And my mother and I gleefully exchanged email after email regarding logistics, the true form of peeps (I contended only yellow chicks), and diorama themes while my sister Jess pretended she didn't know us.

We were pretty settled on creating a peep show but a few days before we converged, Alexis had a moment of insightful genius at 5:45 am..."The Persistence of Peeps!" she cried in the friscallating dawn-light, "that Dali painting with the melty-clocks."

Of course.

Everyone knows that after you microwave a peep to full bloated proportions, upon cooling, it settles back down to a mere sugared pancake of it's former self. It would be easy to spatula those still-warm peeps over tree limbs and ~ voila! Melty peeps!

The shopping went off relatively hitch-free after my other and I finished mocking my sister for never having gone to a Michael's Craft Store.

I mean, my mother's so crafty she smuggled a glue-gun in her carry-on luggage. (Well, smuggled is probably a misnomer for what she did, since she got caught and was thoroughly searched when security saw it on x-ray. "But it's not a real gun..." my mother insisted, "it's even a low-temp melt.")

We spent that evening creating the diorama stage - with styrofoam inserts in the bottom to secure the props, and wiring the Twizzlers. Yes, *wiring* the Twizzlers, it worked amazingly well...except for the fact that my mother kept reaching over and grabbing bits of licorice from my work area (while she e-mailed from the next chair over), and I was afraid she was going to end up "caught" with a piece of wire through her cheek. Plus she kept stealing the licorice I was working on and then complained about feeling sick...ha! I prevailed, however, and made a pretty nice looking licorice tree...

The chocolate platform was easy, though my sister lost all of her teaboxes in the process of trying to cut one to the right height to support the chocolate bars.

The cliffs in the background are Butterfingers - a candy bar only appropriate for geologic approximation, not consumption.

The enigmatic figure in the lower right of the painting (a self-portrait, my mother announced from her laptop) was being played by a chipper little white chocolate fellow named "Mr. Lucky." Hah-hah...he wasn't so lucky when Jess and I pressed him into a hot cookie sheet and watched him melt! We stared in amazement as Mr. Lucky formed a perfect candy puddle and began to disappear.

"Whoah, this bunny has to cool!" I yelped.
Jess sprang into action, slipped on some shoes and we ran what was left of Mr. Lucky into the back yard to take advantage of the late March snows.

The peeps were the real problem. First, I've always microwaved peeps - fast, quick, painless...and my sister lacks this essential appliance. Troglodite. (Alexis asked on the phone: "How does she heat stuff? Like, microwave stuff?")

Second, heat was not the answer. You see, when you melt a peep, it loses its much-needed facial definition. Beaks, eyes, bulbous forehead - all we came up with a multi-step approach that involved:


Light Heating

Heavy Squishing

And finally, the draping.

The elements came together quite nicely, I think.