August 18, 2008


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S' mores have never been my preferred dessert. While I think marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate are all spectacular items on their own, together they somehow lose their individual identities, morphing instead into a cumbersome and messy assembly, which undoubtedly suffers from at least one of the following problems: chocolate that is not melted enough; chocolate that is too melted and runs down your wrist; a burned marshmallow that nearly took out your fire-side neighbor' s eye; a marshmallow that tastes like butane from your fake fire; a marshmallow that sticks to your roasting stick its skin peeling away, leaving a dribbling white body underneath; a graham cracker that cracks in the wrong place, forcing your Hershey' s chunks to break incongruously and fall in clumps down the front of your shirt, etc. Personally, I would always rather have a full bag of Jet-Puffed with a long stick and lots of time to get each one the perfect shade of golden bronze. We’ve all heard that the key to a great marshmallow is a raging campfire. This is true: in the same way that eating a great French meal is best done on a riverboat down the Seine. But you can have a perfectly good toasted marshmallow from the comfort of your kitchen. In fact, you can have a far superior s' more from the comfort of your kitchen. All of you campers dead set on the smell of pine sap fueling your long summer evenings by the fire pit, bear with me– I am a campfire lover myself. But I’ve learned that the perfect s’more is not the product of the open flame. My discovery started at about 2pm a few Saturdays ago when I went about preparing for the perfect summer evening. First, I set up a fire pit. Then I went to the store and bought several bags of marshmallows, two king sized bars of Hershey' s chocolate and a box of graham crackers. By the time I got home, the sky was gray. A few moments later, a hard storm hit and all of my wood was drowned. Determined to use my fire pit, I went back to the store for a box of Duraflame once the rain cleared away. After dinner, I proudly told my guests of the ever-ready log and my kitchen full of s' more ingredients. But my excitement was unmet by one guest who politely told me: “Isabel, I' d like to end this weekend alive. You can' t cook anything over a Duraflame.”Crapola: there would be no s' mores and I might have poisoned my friends. But the ingredients remained arranged on the countertop, and I was loathed to put them back in their bags. So, we each grabbed a shish kebob skewer and stood around the oven. In the meantime, we were also able to toast the graham cracker and microwave the chocolate, testing what timing would push it over the edge into liquid and what timing would produce a perfectly warm square, meting at the edges. Then the fun ensued: we spread chocolate onto the toasted graham crackers and put the softened but slightly crisp marshmallows on top, allowing them to sink and spread a bit into the chocolate. These made me realize what campfire s' mores are lacking: integration. Anytime I ate a s' more before, it was really just a ready made in three parts. By preparing each ingredient properly beforehand, they were all able to meld into a perfect, single item: the dream s' more. Take them down to the fire with you, and you might as well have made them en plain air.

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