Joanne Palmer: The ghost burned the brownies |

Joanne Palmer: The ghost burned the brownies

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or
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— A poltergeist recently invaded my kitchen.

The other morning, I stumbled downstairs to find the oven on. Inside, baking merrily away, was a casserole dish containing two charred pieces of bread topped with something that resembled two cow patties. After poking and prodding the remains and looking at the jumble of bags and boxes on the countertop, I came up with the following hypothesis: Someone decided to make an open-face brownie sandwich, forgot about it and left it to cook at 350 degrees all night long.

Hmmmm : whom could it be?

I would have to go into full detective mode to solve this mystery. Why, I might even have to find my magnifying glass. I’ve always been a fan of Inspector Clouseau, Colombo and Jessica Fletcher (amateur sleuth and writer) so I wrote out my list of suspects neatly on pink 3-by-5 note cards, one suspect per card.

The good thing about a small household is, the suspect list is short. There are only two adults – and I use that term loosely – a ‘tween, a dog and, possibly, a poltergeist.

– Suspect No. 1: me.

In the good old days, when hormones trumped wrinkles, this brownie sandwich is something I would have craved at a certain time of the month. But I would have added crackers. First, the bread, then a layer of salty crackers, topped with chocolate. Starch, sugar, salt : perfection!

However, since my hormones are gone, eating chocolate at night no longer is an option. So, clearly, it could not have been me.

As I waited for the other suspects to wake up, I imagined what might have happened if I’d slept two hours later. This is how the entry in The Record might have read:

7:30 a.m. Kitchen fire reported in the 900 block of Carbohydrate Lane. Strange brownie sandwich determined to be the cause.

– Suspect No. 2: my son.

I woke Suspect No. 2 for school and showed him the casserole dish.

“What is this?”

“Gross! Can you drive me to school?”

“What were you doing last night after I went to bed?”

“Ah, Mom, I took a shower like you asked me to and went to bed. Can you drive me to school?”

“Did you cook this?”

“No way! I don’t know how to work the oven. Can you drive me to school?”

Suspect No. 2: Innocent by virtue of the fact he can’t operate the oven. I discarded his 3-by-5 card.

– Suspect No. 3: the dog.

I showed her the casserole dish, and she hightailed it for the closet.

Suspect No. 3: Innocent!

I discarded her 3-by-5 card.

– Suspect No. 4: World’s Greatest Boyfriend (aka the late-night snack attacker).

Questioning him would require the utmost skill, finesse and perhaps a little reverse psychology. In my mind, he was the prime suspect. As soon as dinner is over and the kitchen has been cleaned up, he starts his serious snacking. Popcorn, cereal, cheese and crackers are all fairly common, a brownie sandwich, well : not typical, but he is a pretty creative guy. “What’s that smell?”

“Beats me.”

“What is that?” he asked, pointing at the casserole dish.

“Breakfast,” I said brightly. “Add skim milk – it might loosen up a little.”

“Did you make this?” (A fair question, because he has sampled more than his fair share of my cooking.)


“It’s you,” he said definitively. “You must be sleepwalking. Or a complete stranger entered the house and left his/her calling card.”

OK, another 3-by-5 card.

I haven’t solved the mystery yet, but when I do, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m going to dust for fingerprints and set a trap for the poltergeist.

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