I saw my first snow flurry of the season when I was home in Syracuse (unofficial abominable snowmonster capital of the world) this past weekend.
I suppose this means it’s time to break out the spiked holiday drinks and relish in Burl Ives singing A Holly Jolly Christmas. (I can usually trick myself into thinking winter is fun with this kind of behavior until early January.) So, hot toddy in hand, I set out to fully embrace the season. And I’ve already had my first holiday revelation: marshmallows.
The marshmallow is a funny thing. It’s a bit of an oddity, well known and yet nearly impossible to describe in detail. Many eat them, but few can describe them.
Not that you can fault anyone for that. Marshmallows—by definition—are not meant to be pondered over. In fact, please don’t; best not to overanalyze, much like the origins of a hot dog or a man wearing a red wool reindeer sweater with blinking lights or a dentist-aspiring elf; I’d wager you don’t really need to know their back-stories.
Even though a marshmallow is nowhere near as concerning as say, a man in itchy, battery-operated holiday apparel, the initial anticipated bite of a homemade marshmallow can be a tad worrisome. I made homemade marshmallows to top twice-baked candied sweet potatoes this thanksgiving and ended up with a few extra confections to dole out to willing companions. Without fail, a serious look would fall upon the taster as the marshmallow neared the mouth.
The response was always the same: “they taste … like … marshmallow!?” A fact that was somehow oddly comforting. (It was also comforting to find that they bounced—much like Bumbles.) This being my first marshmallow-making attempt, I too was surprised at their legit marshmallow qualities.
Only a marshmallow could be described by saying it tasted like … itself. And misfit or not, pretty much everyone I know will eat a marshmallow in some form, whether it’s sandwiched between graham crackers, swirled into ice cream, paired with chocolate, caramelized on a sweet potato, or made into a rice crispy treat.
This makes the marshmallow somewhat of a magical nonconformist. And an easy one to make, at that. And a perfect way to ease into the snowy season ahead. (See lyrics below.) Hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmallows would be a particularly lovely holiday bribe for a shoveled sidewalk, especially if you throw in a little Baileys. They’ll keep quite well through the next month, so make a bunch to have on hand for every snowy evening (or red-nosed misfit) you meet.