I Love S'mores!

I grew up camping with my family. Well, if you've ever seen a Datsun B210 hatchback, you'll know that it was more like backpacking than camping! We graduated to a Volkswagen bus with a pop top, which indeed was an upgrade, except when it came to speed...but that's another story.  It was a huge upgrade in sleeping accommodations as well as cargo capacity. It changed the quality of camping in Western Washington, where rain, like tomorrow, it only a day away. I've backpacked on and off since I was 9, sometimes sleeping in a tube tent. Ever heard of that?  The point is that I've been camping all my life, and while it's taken different forms.

over the years, there's always been one constant: s'mores. Whether we carried them on our backs or in the trunk, graham crackers, Hershey milk chocolate bars (in all of their bland glory) and jet-puffed sugar always found a way to our campsite. They still do, especially now that we have children of our own.

I'm sitting poolside (indoors because it's October in northern Minnesota) while the kids swim and play. It's a rough life and I can feel your sympathy from here, so I appreciate that. When we came up for a long weekend in August to the north shore of Lake Superior, the place we stayed was on the beach and had a campfire every night and offered s'more supplies at the front desk. Marshmallows and sticks were free, chocolate and graham crackers were one dollar. Three nights of sugary goodness kept the outdoors alive well past sunset. We're here in Duluth and while it's much less remote, the hotel still offers outdoor fires and s'mores for all of the guests. Love me some Minnesota!

We'd had some late nights with the kids this week, so I'll admit that I was somewhat reticent to let the kids have yet more sugar at 8:00 pm. But I rarely win when the vote is 3 to 1, so the kids get marshmallows and we put off rest one more day! I often say that I can sleep when I'm dead, but the reality is that I sleep more than I used to. But that too is another story. Where were we? O yes, s'mores.

It turns out that Autumn and I are very different people (surprise!) but one thing we both enjoy is the movie Hudson Hawk. It's a very cheesy movie with Bruce Willis that I hear he regrets making. But I enjoy the heck out of it and it turns out that my awesome wife also suffers from the same affliction. We refer to this as a neurotic lock, something in our brains that connect on a level that doesn't make sense to anyone else but us. What does this have to do with s'mores? Well, follow me down that path as I tell you that Autumn and I both grew up in households that didn't have stuff like marshmallows around the house, EXCEPT for s'mores and ONLY for camping. Needless to say, it made their deliciousness all that more memorable, in fact it would follow us into adulthood.

Autumn isn't much of a sweets person, but she will only rarely pass on a s'more. I'm a bit different in that I can pass on a s'more, but when I do have them, I wonder why I EVER pass on them. It's a bit more complicated than it needs to be really. So it goes. And still, I sit here next to the pool writing this, nursing a burnt lip, watching the kids swim and play. Yes, feel sorry for me. Please. Just kidding, I'm good. Except for the lip, it does hurt a bit.

As you read my rambling thoughts here you might see a few threads starting to emerge and you may see where this is all going. No, we're not going camping. We're not going to watch a movie either. But hang in there, we're almost done. Well, maybe. I'm never sure when these things are going to end. Maybe at s'mores? I hope so, I love them, almost as much as I love bacon. But that too is another story. The hotel here has bowls of graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows. There are tables with long metal roasting sticks and everyone just helps themselves to supplies and heads to the patio where there are two gas-fired roasting fires to gather around.

As I mentioned before, it's October and getting cool at night, so gathering around a fire comes easy to folks and there's usually a couple of families out there well before the s'mores. After the kids went to bed, Autumn and I came down to make s'mores. Yep, a sugar date! We gathered supplies and proceeded to roast marshmallows. Now, for me it's important to avoid open flame when roasting anything, but a gas-fired roasting demands that you use the flame, not just hot coals. That means a learning curve because I have a harder time gauging heat. Also, I prefer my jet-puffed treats cooked to a nice brown color, heated all the way through so that they slide off the stick and onto its sweet bed of chocolate graham goodness without much ado. That's hard enough to do with coals, much less open flame.

I loaded my marshmallows onto the double roaster, since I like efficiency. I tentatively lowered my marshmallows over the flames and rotated them slowly. I really thought that I was being conservative, but was proven wrong when not one, but both marshmallows blackened and burst into flame. I quickly blew out the flames, but not before noticing that the longer roasting sticks make it hard to get the sticky treats close enough to extinguish the flames quickly.

A bit more wary now, I start the process again. This time, I lower the marshmallows at a excruciatingly slow pace. At least that's how it felt. I was wrong again. Maybe marshmallows ignite easier once they have burned. Maybe my eyesight simply isn't what it used to be. Maybe a rogue flame leaped out like an Olympic pole vaulter and embraced my already-charred treasure. Doesn't matter I suppose, because whatever the cause, one marshmallow burst into flame again. I suppose my roasting technique had improved slightly the second time around since only one caught fire, but what hadn't improved was my ability to navigate the long roasting stick.

Normally, I would have cut a roasting stick from a tree branch and whittled the end to a point. The stick is usually long enough to stay out of the blistering heat of the fire but still short enough to easily manipulate with one hand. The metal sticks so kindly provided by the hotel were a bit longer than I normally use and heavier since they were metal instead of wood. This, along with my haste to extinguish the flames conspired to land me in the aforementioned chair beside the aforementioned pool in the suffering state that I am whining so much about. How? Simply put, it's physics.

My haste meant greater velocity for the marshmallow. I wasn't used to the stick (excuse) and so I wasn't ready for said velocity. What does it all mean? Ultimately, it means that I flipped a flaming marshmallow at my face. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that I was already leaning into it so that I could blow out the flames. The good news is that the flames were already out by the time the marshmallow was to my face. The bad news is that a was-just-on-fire marshmallow collided with my lips. Did I mention how much I love s'mores?


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