Brief backstory: My family is moving across the country in 6 days — smack dab in the middle of December — so we can’t really decorate for the holidays. There’s no point in getting a tree, there’s no point in putting up decorations, there’s no point in stringing lights — everything has to be packed by this weekend. And as such, our little home is feeling less-than-festive, and a little bleak for our young children.
On a seemingly totally separate note, our movers can’t transport any food. And while we’ll happily donate non-perishables, what are we supposed to do with items that are already open?
Suddenly, the answer was clear: We would make decorations out of our soon-to-be-trash food.
What followed was approximately one hour spent meticulously constructing the world’s greatest Pantry Food Nativity Scene of 2017. When we began, it felt like a silly lark. By the time we were finished, we were declaring ourselves “perishable architects,” so authentic were the manger and wise men and holy scene that stood before us.
Here is our step-by-step guide to making merry...by making Mary out of old, stale candy. Enjoy!
First, we established a foundation: A cookie sheet covered in Progresso breadcrumbs to serve as the sand.
Next, we knew we had to begin with the centerpiece of any nativity scene: the baby Jesus. At first, we were going to use a novelty mini Tobasco, but then we decided his sombrero made him look too old, too sage — so thus was born our very first of the three wise men. Then we found an old fortune cookie that kind of looked like a cozy nesting blanket. We broke it open, inserted a tiny and innocent Blue Diamond salt and vinegar almond, and ta-da: baby Jesus was born! (We left the fortune inside to serve as scripture.)
We started scouring the pantry for anything that looked human- or animal-esque. We found a honey bear, a ProBugs kefir packet, a tiny Santa candy and a bunch of duck-shaped crackers called Quack'ns. Now we were cookin' with gas!
Ahem. In this next photo, you'll notice we made a swap. My husband Jeff didn't want the ProBugs kefir packet to be a wise man because he thought it was "too creepy," so he replaced it with a miniature cheese grater. What followed was a five-minute argument about whether or not a kitchen utensil counted as a pantry item, and me eventually conceding because the clock was tickin' and I didn't want to miss the season premiere of Vanderpump Rules. (I still think the cheese grater is a total scam, but the record shows I had a viable substitute.)
Anyway, Jeff got to building the manger out of old graham crackers and Justin's Honey Almond Butter (which makes for excellent mortar!), and I created a Mary out of stale, condensed Sriracha cotton candy, and Joseph from some fruit leather.
We found a few more holiday candies with reindeer and snowmen to serve as additional bystander witnesses. Jeff built eaves out of more graham crackers, and we delicately placed a chocolate star of Bethlehem upon the top. We then dusted the scene with rainbow sprinkles to serve as snow, only to immediately realize that there was prooobably no snow in the desert. So whatever, just consider it confetti celebrating baby Jesus' birth, okay?
It was looking good but needed some final flourishes. We made Mary a glow of light from an arrowroot cookie. We added bay leaves to the roof's eaves for a more authentic "of the earth" feel. And then our piéce de resistance: an angel made from apricot paste, complete with a Cheerio halo, delicately hung from our oven's overhead light. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
And there you have it: a nativity scene made entirely out of foods from our pantry, with the exception of a miniature cheese grater which is, in fact, an instrument and not a food. (Who's got the last word now, Jeff?!) All it took was a little ingenuity, a little creativity, and a lot of leftover crap we didn't realize we had chillin' in the corners of our cabinets. But even so, it brought cheer to our emptying kitchen and joy to our children — and honestly, it turned out about a jillion times better than expected.
The Feast is Bravo’s digital destination serving culinary inspiration and essential food news. Like us on Facebook and visit daily for diet and wellness trends, kitchen hacks and tools — and the buzziest celebrity, chef, and restaurant happenings you need to know about right now.