National Smores Day 2012Today we celebrate one of the most underrated holidays in America.  The naysayers will complain that it is just one more arbitrary date to match with clip-art and stick on cardboard in attempt to bolster August sales for North American greeting card companies. To them I say “Nonsense!” National S’mores days has all the makings of a good and proper holiday.  Eating, sweets, time with friends and/or family, a song or two, and even a fire (possibly in a hearth!) So move over Sadie Hawkins Day.  National S’mores day is there real deal.

There is one thing about this holiday that worries me however. My concern is the widespread scourge of improper S’more manufacture that is currently rendering people across North America subconsciously disappointed. The subtle disappointment derives primarily from a general lack of standards and disregard for technique. From Orwell, to Hitchens, to Adams the British have been harping on about the proper way to prepare their nations comfort beverage for a half a century. I think it is time we pay a similar homage to one of our staple North American Comfort foods.

A Brief History Of S’mores

The person to whom we are forever indebted to for this bit of culinary wizardry, is a girl scout troop leader name Loretta Scott Crew.  In a flash a genius that has yet to be rivaled in the realm of camping desserts, she jotted down the basic ingredients for this legendary campfire treat in the 1927 book called “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts”.   For some time, the tasty snack retained its elongated and rather fitting name of “Some more”.  It was still common to find the sweet sandwich in camping books under its non-contracted form until well into the 1970’s.  However, some time in the last 40 years someone decided saying “ome” twice in one name was a bit much (Presumably this was decided with a mouth full of melty chocolate and marshmallow or possibly during a round of “Fluffy Bunny”) and the name was shortened to S’more. The shortened version stuck like a little kid to the gooey white innards of the treat itself.

Technique

As anyone who has been camping with a group of friends can tell you, the theory behind the perfect S’more technique can vary substantially.  There are those that will tell you that it is a simple task.  They usually spew some nonsense about charred marshmallows tasting good and how you can open the chocolate packaging after you have warmed your mallow. Piffle! We shall ignore this heresy.  It deserves fewer words than we have already given it. For true gooey glory, follow these simple guidelines.

Preparation

It is a little known fact that unwrapping is actually a key part in the S’more making process. It is vital that the graham cracker packaging be removed, the chocolate wrapper unwrapped, and that the pieces of both be broken and stacked in preparation, before the marshmallow is cooked.

There are two key reasons for taking the time to prepare your sandwich parts properly. The first is that it makes for easy marshmallow removal.  Instead of plucking the hot and sticky white cylinder off the end of your stick and running a high risk of finger burn or the ever tragic cry of “It fell in the fire!”, you can use the heat shielding properties of graham cracker and chocolate to gently slide the marshmallow off of your stick.  Doing so automatically activates benefit number two.  A good hot marshmallow, fresh off the stick, will start to melt the chocolate.  This may seem a trivial point but to the S’mores connoisseur, it is the mark of true mastery.

Ideal Toasting Conditions

It is true that it is in fact, possible to toast a satisfactory marshmallow over a variety of flames.  Many an impatient camper, hungry for that sugary bliss, has devised an intricate dance of waving, retracting, and twirling.  If executed perfectly, this method can sometimes produce a well browned if not slightly uneven or lumpy result. More often than not however it ends in a puff of smoke and the flash of flames followed by a wave of disappointment and similar wave of your blazing sugar ball.

The only way to achieve true evenly browned goodness is to roast your marshmallow over a bed of glowing coals.  Not the coals that escaped to one side while the rest of the fire burns on. A proper spread of sparkling embers left over from a once blazing fire, is the only way to guarantee gooey perfection. Only then, with even rotation and calculated distance can greatness be achieved.

Lick It

While the coals and patience method has yielded bountiful delicious results over many years of diligent research, it is rumored that another short cut method may exist. These methods vary but all are reduced to some form of putting the marshmallow in one’s mouth while simultaneously resisting the urge to swallow it. It is then removed from the mouth and placed on the end of your stick. Supposedly this acts as some sort of heat buffer and allows for quicker cooking while also preserving the ever desirable browning effect.

Other Versions

If you have perfected the art of S’more making and are looking for more creative endeavors, you are in luck. There are many variations on the traditional S’more that are equally respectable and delicious.  Try experimenting with your chocolate selection. Peanut butter cups and Peppermint Patties make easy and delectable substitutes.  If you happen to be celebrating in Britain, where Hersheys and Graham Crackers may be hard to come by (Or even if you are not), I highly recommend Chocolate Covered digestive biscuits as a substitute. For a slightly different but still altogether wonderful deviation there is always Banana boats.