Monday, November 28, 2005

The Art of Toasting Marshmallows

Toasting, not torching. Golden brown, not black. Done over glowing embers, not over flame.

In a post about "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Ann Althouse writes
I also liked his [Larry David's] contempt for campfire-roasted marshmallows: "Why don't you reduce all your foods to cinders?"
Clearly Mr. David has not mastered the Art of Toasting Marshmallows. (In a follow up comment, Ann writes, "For the record, on the show, they were sticking the marshmallows in flames, not waiting for embers.")


Straight from the bag, these pasty white things are not fit for consumption. Try it -- eat a few (or just imagine eating a few) and darned if you don't feel a mix of shame and guilt. You are eating something immature, like veal, or a tadpole.

But with the proper ceremony, marshmallows can be transformed into what is, I am sure, the food of the gods. Why else were the gods so irate when Prometheus gave humans the gift of fire?

And the proper ceremony, like the Japanese Tea Ceremony, requires patience. A small fire won't do. It must include a few logs with a diameter of 5 inches or more. Anything less won't produce sufficient coals. More importantly, anything less won't demand enough patience.

Waiting for the fire to die down is best done in silence. It is a sacred time, connecting us to the ancients. Did I mention this has to be done at night? A chilly night -- none of this balmy L.A. evening nonsense.

When the fire has died down, large glowing embers remain, ranging from intense yellow-orange to red. Now the fire is ready for us to offer a sacrifice -- a toasted offering, if you will. The marshmallow cannot touch the embers. Near proximity is enough to transform the pasty white blob into something divine.

I believe that Gerard Manley Hopkins, the deeply religious English poet, had toasted marshmallows on his mind when he wrote his poem, The Windhover. The poem celebrates the glory of God as revealed in nature. It closes with an image of "blue-bleak embers" which
"Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion."
Praise God and pass the marshmallows.

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