What do you do when you find a great second-hand item—an appliance, electric gadget or power tool, for example—but the box is long gone, and the instruction book is missing? Search the internet, of course. That’s exactly what I did, and I turned up something even better–or so I thought. I found Cathy.
Professional pitchwoman Cathy Mitchell made me believe all things were possible with my Clark Snakmaster. She’s pictured here with one of the other products she sold–the Sideshow Skillet.
I generally don’t get drawn in to infomercials, but I couldn’t get enough of Cathy Mitchell and her Snakmaster infomercial. Never mind that it was taped in 1990; the video lives on forever on YouTube. And thanks to Cathy, I learned a lot about the old Clark Snakmaster I scored from the the Goodwill Store…..although not as much as I’d learn a little later on. But more about that in a minute.
It Starts With Sandwiches
First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with the Snakmaster as I was, you might assume that it just offers a fun way to make toasted sandwiches, which it does. You place two slices of bread on the heated non-stick plates, top them with cheese or other fillings, finish them off with two more slices of bread and close and latch the Snakmaster shut. Two minutes later–viola! You have four golden-brown, triangle-shaped sandwiches with crimped and sealed edges that keep your filling securely in place.
And had it not been for Cathy, that’s where it would have ended for me. I would have experimented with different fillings, maybe tried making sandwiches with French toast, but still I would have fallen far short of using the Snakmaster to its full potential. As it turns out, maybe that would have been for the best.
Construction is key
The first important thing Cathy shares with me in her infomercial is that the plates inside this small appliance are made from “a non-stick, vegetable-based material that’s baked on.” In other words, I don’t need to butter my bread to make my toasted sandwiches. Well, that sounded pretty awesome. Fewer calories and a quick clean-up–sign me up for that.
I loved the “dimples” in the Snakmaster plate design. And the baked-on, non-stick material promised an easy, breezy clean-up.
Cathy does, however, recommend using butter in some circumstances. For example, she brushes melted butter onto tortillas to keep them from drying out and brushes the wells with butter when she makes egg dishes because she thinks it adds a little flavor.
Another important feature of the non-stick plates is that they aren’t flat. They have what Cathy describes as “deep wells,” and she frequently reminds viewers not to skimp on their fillings because the deep wells are designed to handle lots of volume. Generously filled sandwich pockets, she likes to point out, are what sets Snakmaster-made snacks apart from the items you get from your grocer’s freezer or fast-food restaurants.
A Baker’s New Best Friend (?)
Cathy also informs me that the Snakmaster can be used for baking. She says it can make corn bread and other bread and cake mix recipes in just four minutes! This was a dangerous discovery. Have you ever talked yourself out of satisfying a craving for chocolate cupcakes by thinking about the time it would take to get up and bake them? The Snakmaster cuts baking time from 20-25 minutes to just four minutes! Four minutes, people. I feel Cathy crossed a line here when she shared this information, but in her defense, she’s not really responsible for my lack of self-control when it comes to cake.
I’d typically make a cake from scratch, but having just watched Cathy bake cinnamon buns in the Snakmaster, I didn’t want to waste another minute before I started loading mine with batter and popping out delicious baked goods
When you use the Snakmaster for baking or for making egg dishes—basically for anything that rises—you have to be sure not to latch the appliance shut the way you do when you toast a sandwich. I don’t know if that would have every crossed my mind, so I was grateful to Cathy for the tip.
Finally, Cathy’s infomercial shows me how to make pies in my Snakmaster with just some bread (brushed with butter so that it would taste more like pie crust, Cathy said) and canned pie filling. This is something we actually used to do when we went camping. We had long-handled, sandwich irons that we loaded up with bread and pie filling and held over the campfire to bake. Cathy finishes hers off with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar–a nice touch but something we never bothered with. There was no time for powdered sugar anyway; we ate them so fast they barely had time to cool.
A Reality Check
Thanks to all of Cathy’s advice and encouragement, I felt more than ready to begin using my Snakmaster. I felt so confident that I decided to start with something that I’d been a little skeptical about–a baked good. I’d pick up a small package of banana bread mix at the store, and it seemed perfect for my inaugural baking project.
I was on the fence as to whether I should brush the plates with a little butter. I didn’t see the downside to it, so I put a light coating of melted butter in all of the wells. Cathy had encouraged me to really fill the wells. She said any overage would just come out the sides and could easily be cut off. I took her at her word.
The banana bread package said it made seven muffins; I loaded all the batter into the four “wells” of the Snakmaster.
Cathy had warned me that excess batter would ooze out the side, so that didn’t concern me. But do you see the smoke rising up from the front of the machine? Now that I was a little worried about.
In the video, Cathy sets four minutes as her baking time, but when my four-minute mark rolled around, the centers of my banana bread pockets were still raw, but the outsides seemed stuck to the non-stick surface.
Hmmmm. I was not expecting this. Instead of four banana bread pockets, I had four “tops” and four “bottoms.”
I gave it two more minutes, and reopened the lid. The insides were now done–basically, but the outsides were burnt and even more securely stuck in place.
Time does not heal all wounds. In this case, those extra two minutes baked the banana bread in the center but also baked it right on to the “non-stick” plates.
I used a wooden spatula to scrape my banana bread-lettes off of the non-stick surface. Some seemed comfortable where they were and refused to budge. Instead of golden-brown, pocket-shaped banana bread pastries, I was left with mangled pastry scraps. This did not happen in the video!
The end result looked like something from a crime scene. Maybe CSI could help me figure out how it all went so wrong.
I’m not entirely sure what went wrong. I didn’t see the harm in coating the plates with melted butter, but could that have contributed somehow to the smoking and eventual sticking that happened? Smoking, maybe, but sticking–I don’t think so.
Is it possible that the “non-stick, vegetable-based material” that had been baked on to the Snakmaster when it was produced had worn off over time? Well, maybe, but the term “baked on” seems to indicate that it was part of the genetic make up of the snack machine, so I’m not sure.
Could it be that the person who’d owned the Snakmaster before me hadn’t been diligent in seeking out the instructions like I had but had instead abused the pocket-maker by spraying it with Pam or some other non-stick vegetable spray? This, to me, seems the most likely answer. Those sprays contain a lot of water, which quickly burns away and leaves a gummy residue on the non-stick surface ruining it’s non-stick-ability.
Or maybe I’d missed some key information from Cathy’s infomercial. Her Snakmaster pitch is on YouTube in two parts, but Part 2 ends abruptly and makes me wonder if there’s more I should know. I’ve included the two videos at the bottom on this post. I couldn’t find a Part 3 on YouTube, but if you do, please let me know.
So what now? Well, the first order of business is to see if I can clean the baked-on banana batter off of my Snakmaster. Then, I think I’ll give a sandwich a try. It may crash and burn–literally, burn–but at least I’ll know for sure if I can get any use out of my new appliance.
Thrift store shopping offers no guarantees, but I’ve always scored way more hits than misses, and I definitely learn a lot. My Snakmaster may not be everything Cathy promised, but I don’t blame her. In fact, I’d like to thank her. Without Cathy, I never would have thought to make a toasted sandwich of spaghetti between two pieces of garlic bread. That tip alone was worth the $4.49.
What’s the biggest dud you ever brought home from a second-hand shop, flea market or yard sale? Tell me about it below or click Leave a comment