S’Mores Are Not Cancelled
Many things have changed since 1927, but a love of s’mores has remained constant across this country. Kids and adults alike are still lighting campfires in backyards, parks and the great outdoors – perhaps even more so this summer, as regular activities have become difficult, if not impossible, amid the pandemic. Roasting marshmallows over cracklin’ flames remains on the safe list — and can easily be done from the comfort of one’s own home, alongside close family and friends, or while social distancing with others.
Seemingly simple, s’mores are anything but. Choices are endless to please every palette, dietary restriction and the child in all of us. Purists may turn their noses up at anything that doesn’t involve Hershey’s Chocolate, Honey Maid Graham Crackers and Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows. Yet vegan marshmallows are indeed a thing, as are strawberry, coconut, exotic booze-flavored, stuffed and homemade varietals.
Classic milk or dark chocolate is also up for debate, sometimes with a hint of sea salt or chewy dried fruit. Whole wheat, gluten-free or graham crackers with a sprinkling of extra cinnamon, honey or cocoa can best the original. And if you’re really looking to up your game, add a dollop of peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread or caramel; mix in fresh berries, a hint of spice or thinly sliced apples. While you need nothing more than three essentials to make the cut, s’mores are certainly open to any creative culinary touch.
Published recipes for s’mores date back almost a century to a Girl Scout guidebook from the 1920s when one troop leader, Loretta Scott King, explained how to make “some mores" by the campfire. Its name — which was later contracted into the term that rolls easily off of all our tongues — stems from simple fact that everyone always wants some more (don’t you?!). The simple, yet exquisite flavor and texture combination of toasted marshmallows and gooey chocolate sandwiched between two crunchy graham crackers quickly became a classic sweet treat, beloved by generations of Americans and near synonymous with summertime.
Mastering the art of roasting a marshmallow – central to the perfect s’more – is no small feat, and everyone has their own technique to swear by. The marshmallow itself has come a long way since humble origins as a medicinal plant in Ancient Greek and Roman times, before the French turned it into a fluffy confection with simplified ingredients, streamlined production and lower costs, thanks to the use of gelatin. Now, bags of jet-puffed marshmallows of uniform size, shape and color – sometimes in technicolor rainbow – are available for but a couple of dollars at pretty much any corner store in the US, with ever-rising international popularity as well.
But how do you achieve the golden brown sugary perfection, hot enough to melt the squares of chocolate, yet not burnt to a crisp (though appropriate levels of char are open to discussion)? Holding a marshmallow or two over the fire on the end of a carefully-selected long stick or metal skewer for a few minutes is the optimal technique, but when lacking coals, they can also be toasted indoors over a gas stove or even carefully puffed in the oven.
Everyone has a go-to recipe or favorite touch, perhaps tied to a memory of sleep away camp, campfire singalongs or family trips. And even when everything may seem upside-down in the world, it’s comforting to know that fire, night skies and sweet s'more sandwiches cannot and will not be cancelled.