By Paul Bianchina
We were off on a camping trip recently, those lazy evenings around the campfire gave me a great opportunity to cogitate on what could possibly be nature’s most perfect food. It didn’t take long to chew through the possible answers – especially since the obvious choice was no farther away than the end of my roasting fork.
Oh sure, you scoff, there are lots of other contenders for the title. Ones that are “healthier”, if that sort of stuff matters to you for some reason. Ones that pack more nutrition into each bite, or have less empty calories, like anyone out there really cares. But my vote goes to the marshmallow as the ideal choice for all-around perfection.
Let’s consider all the different ways in which this gem sets the st ard:
Appearance: Come on now – it’s pure white! That’s been the st ard of perfection since the beginning of time! Wedding dresses are pure white. Table linens in the best restaurants are pure white. The hair on the heads of all the finest writers is snowy white.
Texture: Again, perfection. Fresh from the bag, they’re fluffy little pillows. I mean, you can pretty much envision Bed Bath Beyond making a giant one for your bed that you could sink your head into as long as they could figure out a way to keep your hair your ear from sticking to it, right? Between the white the fluffy, you almost can’t help making all these really sappy connections to clouds childhood – okay, too much. But after all, you just can’t say those kinds of things about a Brussels sprout, now can you?
Grillability: Pop one of these little guys on the end of a stick. There you go. Now ease it into the flames. Come on – as you’re reading this, you know you want to. Just tease it at the edge of the heat, it turns a subtle tan takes on a nice, slightly crisp outer coat with a layer of melted goo underneath. You’ve done it! You’ve hit the perfect sweet-spot of marshmallow grillability, right between not-enough too-much. No one knows exactly what chemical reaction takes place there – food additive specialists would probably prefer that we not know – but that warm, lightly crusted goo is truly the nectar of the gods.
Organic: Yep, you don’t need to worry about pesticides or any of that other nasty stuff on these little beauties. I don’t think there’s anything on them, in them, or surrounding them except pure sugar in all its naked glory, what could be more organic than that, right?
Shelf life: If I’m not mistaken, the life of the average marshmallow is about 400 years, just below that of a Twinkie. Oh sure, they may get a little hard, but a few seconds over the fire pit will tidy that right up. And they don’t spoil, bruise, rot, mold, or do any of that other nasty stuff that plagues lesser foods, like fruit. After all, you’ve never heard anyone say that “one bad marshmallow ruins the whole bunch”. Did Mom ever tell you to stay away from that tough kid down the street, because he’s a “bad marshmallow?”
Calories: None! Absolutely none! What? There are calories in a marshmallow? Huh. I never knew that. I always thought they all burned up in the fire. Well, it’s a minor flaw, they don’t count anyway, because you’re camping, everyone knows that outdoor calories don’t count because, well, you’re camping you’re outdoors that’s healthy those calories don’t count everyone knows that so it must be true.
Convenience: And now, thank you very much, this little gem of campfire culinary perfection just set its own bar even higher. No longer is it necessary to keep popping another marshmallow on the roasting fork as soon as you finish off the gooey tan white delight before it. Now they’ve introduced the Giant Roaster, a 2-inch x 2-inch mega-monster-marshmallow that’s the equivalent of – wait for it – four st ard-size marshmallows. That’s right. We have the mini-marshmallow, the st ard marshmallow, now, for consummate goo-gluttons such as myself, the Giant Roaster. Slap one of these huge, gleaming white orbs on the end of a roasting fork, settle back in front of the fire, prepare to be entertained for a couple of hours at least. Greatest idea I’ve seen in decades. In fact, when I’m done here I’m going to dash off a letter to the manufacturer ask for one the size of a soccer ball. That should keep me happily toasting for a week or more.
Alas, I’m home now. Stuck back at my computer, all alone, with visions of unrepentant sticky white crispy/gooey marshmallow crème dancing through my tired brain.
I wonder how long it would take to clean a toasted marshmallow off the top of an electric range.
Paul Bianchina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments.