How does a person in her right mind propose covering a marshmallow in more sugar? It’s a valid question. For starters, I like sweets. I do. I have always had a powerful sweet tooth and have been known to eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner when I think I can get away with it.
But this is about more than just achieving sugar nirvana. A handful of marshmallows or a spoonful of brown sugar gets me there. (Not that I have ever set a spoon on my kitchen counter for the sole purpose of nabbing little spoonfuls of brown sugar every time I pass the jar – not really, not ever. Or not much. Rarely, really. Just once. Or so. Anyway.) This is about taking a strange little canvas and decorating it in the way it deserves. This is the miniature millinery of dessert. The chinoiserie wallpaper of a dollhouse living room. Dress it up, make it fancy. Put a bow tie on that butterfly.
(Keep reading Marshmallows Part II…)
I grew up dancing. Ballet at age 5 led to ice skating at 7, which led to creative dance at 9. After a year in open enrollment classes, I auditioned for Children’s Dance Theatre, a beautiful and amazing company at the University of Utah made up of 200 dancers ranging in age from 8 to 18. It was a place to learn, to grow, and most of all, to dance. I cherished every minute.
One of our regular performance avenues were lecture demonstrations – lec/dems, as we called them – at elementary schools around the state. A small group of dancers would travel to a school in the early morning, rehearse briefly, and perform condensed versions of the previous season’s full-company concert. It was an exercise in adapting, in transforming our full-scale productions into something that could look good in a cafeteria amidst row upon row of transfixed grade-schoolers sitting cross-legged on a sticky, linoleum floor. Sometimes, if you were unlucky enough to dance at your own school, it was a lesson in humility as you tried to avoid eye contact with anyone who had mileage to gain from this unitard-clad existence of ours.
At the end of each performance, we would pantomime filling our mouths with giant marshmallows before throwing the same imaginary marshmallows into the audience. With our cartoonish puffed cheeks, we urged the audience members to follow suit. It was a favor to the teachers; you can’t talk with your cheeks full of marshmallows. The hope was that a critical mass of kids from each class would be so enchanted with the mere idea of marshmallows that they would play along and follow their teachers back to the classroom in velvety silence, rather than unleash the wellspring of their previously suppressed energy.
Every time I eat or even think about marshmallows today, I think of those imaginary ones. I still marvel that the trick worked so well. The very suggestion of a marshmallow – a very simple combination of sugar, vanilla, and gelatin – was enough to coax all but the most jaded elementary students to suspend their disbelief and play along. Simple as they may be, marshmallows are a sort of wondrous kid magic. Sweet, spongy, and overwhelmingly throwable, they beckon to both the young and young at heart with their overt mirth.
I don’t know why I decided to make my own. It seemed like such a bizarre thing to render at home – aren’t they an ingredient, not an end in and of themselves? I was surprised at how very simple they proved to be. And how an array of freshly cut marshmallows simply screams “dress me” to those so inclined. The results are intensely satisfying – a backstage pass to one of the best components of a child’s dietary dream. Though delicious in their pure, unadulterated form, the well-accessorized marshmallow transcends the trappings of childhood and becomes a truly adult indulgence.