When I was a kid, my mom signed me up for Girl Scouts. Now, I was not against this endeavor at all. In fact, since most of my friends were also in the same troop, I desperately wanted to join. Back then, I thought camping was fun. I didn’t mind the bugs or sleeping on the ground or throwing everything that had not yet been consumed into some tinfoil, tossing it on the fire and calling it “hobo stew.” In fact, I thought it was spectacular. I longed for camping trips and when one was on the horizon, I got nearly giddy putting all my gear together.
As I’ve grown older, this misguided enthusiasm for the great outdoors has waned considerably. Don’t get me wrong, I see the beauty of nature and all that good jazz, I just prefer to view it from inside the comfort of my air-conditioned home. Or, if I do venture out of doors, I like it to be safe within the confines of my screened in porch where those nasty little blood sucking insects can’t attempt to drain the life from me. I know it sounds so incredibly wimpy of me, but it’s not like I was ever a good camper, just an energetic one. I mean, I never could figure out how to lash anything together the way I was supposed to. Forget making a campfire. I knew the science behind it, but there was no way I was doing it without a lighter or some serious matches. Even as an adult, when we’d go on group camping trips, I was always the one who snuck out of our “primitive” camping space and hoofed it over to the showers, preferring to fight it out with the spiders rather than go without a good cleaning. I think that is what put the proverbial nail in the coffin for me…I got tired of showering in flip flops beneath icy water, only to have to flee after three minutes because an arachnid the size of my fist decided he too needed a good rinse.
The only aspect of camping which has never lost its char for me is the s’more. As far as I am concerned, there is almost no dessert treat that can rival a freshly made s’more. I’m not even really a marshmallow fan (don’t even get me started on what an abomination Peeps are), but there is just something about taking a lightly toasted, slightly gooey marshmallow and slipping it on top of a few Hershey squares between two graham crackers that makes my heart flutter.
I still remember when we got our first microwave, one of our first experiments was making homemade s’mores. We all gathered ’round to see that giant mallow expand to about 10 times its normal size, patiently awaiting the moment my mom would take it out, build the treat and hand us the plate. For awhile one of the cookie companies even made a microwave s’more. I wish I could remember the company, but I was like 8 at the time.
Now, I know it’s not hard to make s’mores in the microwave, but when I saw that Russell Stover had a candy version they were marketing, I knew I had to try it. I did not really have high hopes. Marshmallow candy is almost always abysmal (glaring at you Peeps). I can’t think of a single marshmallow-like candy I have ever enjoyed. Circus Peanuts, Peeps, those odd little pink, brown and white candies that used to be in the Brach’s bins, chocolate covered marshmallow eggs…all had to be invented by very sadistic people who wanted to make kids think they were getting a yummy treat just so they could later laugh when they saw the look of horror that crossed the faces of those poor, unsuspecting youngsters.
I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised. The marshmallow was not overly soggy or chewy like I’d feared. It was a pleasant, fresh marshmallow that had none of the cloyingly sweet, overly sugary flavor of other marshmallow travesties. While it was not really melty the way a truly toasty fire blazed mallow is, it was slightly gooey and aside from not being warm, pretty near perfect…for a marshmallow. I was also nervous about the graham crackers, but there was no reason to be. They were fresh and crisp, as if they were out of a freshly opened packet. They had a great crisp to them, but were not so brittle that they broke into a million pieces when I bit in. The chocolate, despite looking a bit like Magic Shell, did not taste at all fake or plasticy like I thought it might. It definitely had a manufactured plastic-like sheen to it, but it was actually creamy and tasted every bit as good as a Hershey bar on a good ol’ fashioned version. It was amazingly balanced with no one taste overpowering the others. What I thought could have been the biggest chocolate horror show since those damn Easter marshmallow eggs, turned out to be not only palatable, but actually quite pleasant. When I was done, I found myself wishing I’d stocked up on them.
Ok, so they still aren’t as good as their fire-roasted brethren, but it was over 90 degrees here yesterday, so considering that the thought of lighting a fire makes me want to melt, this was a great substitute.