A brief history of the s’more


By Jeffrey Miller, The Conversation

This summer, 45 million pounds of marshmallows will be toasted over a fire in America. Many will be used as an ingredient in the quintessential summer snack: the s’more.

Huddling around a campfire and eating gooey marshmallows and warm chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers may feel like primeval traditions.

But every part of the process – including the coat hanger we unbend to use as a roasting spit – is a product of the Industrial Revolution.

The oldest ingredient in the s’more’s holy trinity is the marshmallow, a sweet that gets its name from a plant called, appropriately enough, the marsh mallow. Marsh mallow, or Althea officinalis, is a plant indigenous to Eurasia and Northern Africa. For thousands of years, the root sap was boiled, strained and sweetened to cure sore throats or simply be eaten as a treat.

The white and puffy modern marshmallow looks much like its ancient ancestor. But for hundreds of years, creation of marshmallows was very time-consuming. Each marshmallow had to be manually poured and molded, and they were a treat that only the wealthy could afford. By the mid-19th century, the process had become mechanized and machines could make them so cheaply that they were included in most penny candy selections. Today the marshmallow on your s’more contains no marsh mallow sap at all. It’s mostly corn syrup, cornstarch and gelatin.

Chocolate is another ancient food. Mesoamericans have been eating or drinking it for 3,000 years. The Europeans who encountered indigenous people in Mexico in the 1500s noted that chocolate was used to treat numerous ailments ranging from dysentery and indigestion, to fatigue and dyspepsia.

But again, it was the Industrial Revolution that made chocolate cheap enough and palatable enough for the average person. The chocolate that the Mesoamericans ate was dark, grainy and tended to be somewhat bitter.

In 1875, a candlemaker-turned-chocolatier named Daniel Peter invented a process to mix milk with chocolate. He then added some more sugar, and the modern milk chocolate bar was born. Peter’s company eventually merged with Henri Nestle’s two companies, and Peter’s invention was dubbed the Nestle chocolate bar. It proved to be so much more popular than the darker bars on the market that other candy companies, from Cadbury to Hershey, released their own versions.

Finally, the graham cracker was invented by the Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham, who felt that a vegetarian diet would help suppress carnal urges, especially the scourge of “self-pollution” (read: masturbation).

The original graham cracker used unsifted whole-wheat flour. Graham felt that separating out the bran was against the wishes of God, who, according to Graham, must have had a reason for including bran.

In his “Treatise on Bread, and Bread-Making,” he gives many examples of prominent writers throughout history who urged the consumption of whole wheat flour.

Graham was highly influential in the development of the health food movement of the 19th century, and his acolytes included John Harvey Kellogg of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, who used the graham cracker as a basis for his famous flaked cereal line.

As for how the graham cracker became a part of the s’more, the snack’s true origin remains unclear.

The first mention of this treat is in a 1927 edition of the Girl Scout manual “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.” In a nod to the treat’s addictive qualities, it was dubbed “Some More.”

The term s’more is first found the 1938 guide “Recreational Programs for Summer Camps,” by William Henry Gibson. Some think the s’more may be a homemade version of the Mallomar or the moon pie, two snacks introduced in the 1910s.

Today, the s’more has become so popular that it’s inspired a range of spin-offs. You can eat a s’mores-flavored Pop Tart for breakfast, munch on a s’mores candy bar for dessert and even unwind after a long day at work with a s’mores martini.

As I often tell my students, the health-conscious Sylvester Graham is probably rolling over in his grave after what became of his beloved cracker.

Jeffrey Miller is an associate professor and program coordinator, Hospitality Management, Colorado State University.

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    1. David Long says - Posted: July 14, 2018

      FYI -Interesting discussion. Much more interesting is the competitive aspects of toastying/roasting the marshmallows. I am enclosing background information that you or some of your readers may enjoy.Please note that the scoring system originally used (see below) was very soon abandoned to simplify the sport.

      RULES AND CONDITIONS FOR COMPETITIVE
      MARSHMALLOW TOASTING/ROASTING

      After a number of years of conflicting regulation and procedures for the toasting/roasting of marshmallows during competitive events, basic rules and conditions were adopted in 1957 by both the Marshmallow Advocates and Devotees (MAD) and the American Roasters of Marshmallow (ARM). The main differences in the groups’ philosophy involved the nomenclature of the activity (Toasting vs Roasting). In 1961 the two organizations merged to form the Marshmallow Roasting/Toasting Society (MR/TS). The groups’ mascot, ‘Toasty’ (a large toasted marshmallow) became synonymous with a Champion level rating. Today a MR/TS Champion is referred to as a Toasty. The words that start the event, “Who Will Challenge a Toasty” conjures memories of fun and competition around the campfire.

      Marshmallow roasting is expected to be fun and is a means to display a degree of expertise that is respected by those with a zest for outdoor living. Practice and patience are the cornerstones for success. While showmanship is a component of competition, belittling one’s opponents, or resorting to inappropriate roasting methods are unacceptable and beneath a true Toasty!!

      Marshmallow originally was derived from the root of a specific type of European mallow plant. The plant was brought to America by many of the immigrants, where it has become naturalized. Use of the root in cooking to make confections goes back hundreds of years. It was learned that the gooey confection would swell when heated. The marshmallow of today represents a sugary concoction that is neither a candy, nor food staple. It is the All-American Marshmallow. The modern marshmallow was first manufactured in 1936, but became a popular treat after World War II. Shortly after the marshmallow was first developed, it was found to swell or puff when toasted/roasted when heated by a dry high heat source. During the early 1950’s marshmallows and campfires became closely connected. Over the years little has changed in the recipe of the marshmallow. Groups toasting marshmallows over the camp coals soon led to informal competitions, which over the years became organized and promoted. The growth period in competition during the late 1950’s led to the development of the ARM and MAD, as governing authorities. Since the 1961 merger few of the scandals of the early years have been reported, and the sport of marshmallow toasting/roasting continues today to be popular.

      The following synopsis of MR/TS rules are provided as a basis for formal competition. For a complete set of rules contact the local MR/TS office or any of the manufactures of MR/TS approved brands of marshmallow.

      SYNOPSIS OF MT/RS RULES

      1. The purpose of any competition is to have fun and display ones mastery of the sport. Prizes may be offered, but no cash prize is allowed. If a Toasty enters the competition his regalia shall be made a portion of the prize. At the end of the competition the Toasty shall retain his/her regalia (Usually), but if defeated fairly shall give his/regalia freely. Once announcing a challenge a Toasty may not withdraw from competition!
      2. There is to be no name calling or profanity. Disparaging remarks among competitors are not allowed.
      3. If a Toasty is competing, it is announced beforehand either verbally or by wearing of regalia. When a Toasty is entered in a competition the event will begin with the words “Who Will Challenge a Toasty”.
      4. The tool used to toast/roast the marshmallow is termed a Prod. The Prod may be forked (two tines maximum) or have a single tine. A prod may be of unfinished wood (termed a natural prod or stick), kiln dried wood (dowel prod); or metal (shank prod). The maximum diameter of a prod shall be ¼ inch (.64cm.) There is no limit on length.
      5. Only full sized marshmallows are to be used in the competition. They may only be placed onto the prod from the center of the flat side.
      6. Regalia includes: Hat; apron/cape; gauntlet (one only used as a heat shield for the hand); Prod; Eye shields are recommended for extensive competition.
      7. The competition area shall surround a campfire, whose fire has been reduced to hot coals. Each preliminary competitor (maximum of three per round) shall take a position equidistant to the other competitors. One winner per round shall be determined by the judge. The winner of preliminary rounds is then the overall winner or is permitted to challenge the Toasty.
      8. The judge (termed Magistrate) shall be fair to all participants and will be familiar with the rules for scoring. His findings are final with no appeal.
      9. Each competitor shall be given up to 30 seconds to arrange his/her coals for the competition.

      SCORES

      A. Scoring is determined by the additive total of the judged parts multiplied by the degree of difficulty. The degrees of difficulty are based on the number of tines on the prod used. 1= a prod having two (2) tines. 2= a prod having a single (1) tine.

      B. The Magistrate shall announce time and begin the competition and tally scores. The magistrate may use assistants to help in tabulating scores. A competitor shall announce to the Magistrate that he is finished and ready for scoring.

      C. Judged parts and values.
      Item Value Assigned Score
      Whole / Guts
      A. Increase in diameter 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      B. Uniform color – sides 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      C. Tanned top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      D. Blistered top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      E. Broken Blister top -1 _____/ _____
      F. Tanned bottom – uniform 2 _____/ _____
      G. Blistered bottom 3 _____/ _____
      H. Color – Dark golden sides 1 _____/ _____
      I. Color – Light golden sides 0 _____/ _____
      J. Color – Dark brown to black sides -1 _____/ _____
      K. Flamed Disqualified _____/ _____
      L. Blister free – sides 1 _____/ _____
      M. Blistered – sides 2 _____/ _____
      N. Broken blisters – sides 1 _____/ _____
      O. Dropped (Soiled) Disqualified _____/ _____
      Parts Total _____/ _____
      Summation _____/ _____
      Difficulty rating _____ X Summation Total = ___________

      D. A skinned marshmallow is when it is first announced prior to scoring, but during the toasting/roasting (Say ” I want a skinned score”). The toasted marshmallow is scored, skinned. The toasted skin must be removed in one piece or the roaster is disqualified. The remaining marshmallow on the prod (termed Guts) is roasted and scored with the one half the score added to the original value. The Guts value is worth ½ the whole marshmallow.
      E. The summation of the judged parts multiplied by the degree of difficulty is a contestant’s score. Each round is scored separately. The winner moves on to the next round and eventually going head to head against the Toasty!! Good Luck!!

      SCORES – ROUND #__________

      Competitor Name MR/TS Affiliation
      ______________________ __________________________
      Item Value Assigned Score
      Whole / Guts
      A. Increase in diameter 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      B. Uniform color – sides 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      C. Tanned top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      D. Blistered top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      E. Broken Blister top -1 _____/ _____
      F. Tanned bottom – uniform 2 _____/ _____
      G. Blistered bottom 3 _____/ _____
      H. Color – Dark golden sides 1 _____/ _____
      I. Color – Light golden sides 0 _____/ _____
      J. Color – Dark brown to black sides -1 _____/ _____
      K. Flamed Disqualified _____/ _____
      L. Blister free – sides 1 _____/ _____
      M. Blistered – sides 2 _____/ _____
      N. Broken blisters – sides -1 _____/ _____
      O. Dropped (Soiled) Disqualified _____/ _____
      Parts Total _____/ _____
      Summation _____/ _____
      Difficulty rating _____ X Summation Total = ___________

      Competitor Name MR/TS Affiliation
      ______________________ __________________________
      Item Value Assigned Score
      Whole / Guts
      A. Increase in diameter 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      B. Uniform color – sides 1 – 3 _____/ _____
      C. Tanned top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      D. Blistered top – uniform 1 _____/ _____
      E. Broken Blister top -1 _____/ _____
      F. Tanned bottom – uniform 2 _____/ _____
      G. Blistered bottom 3 _____/ _____
      H. Color – Dark golden sides 1 _____/ _____
      I. Color – Light golden sides 0 _____/ _____
      J. Color – Dark brown to black sides -1 _____/ _____
      K. Flamed Disqualified _____/ _____
      L. Blister free – sides 1 _____/ _____
      M. Blistered – sides 2 _____/ _____
      N. Broken blisters – sides -1 _____/ _____
      O. Dropped (Soiled) Disqualified _____/ _____
      Parts Total _____/ _____
      Summation _____/ _____
      Difficulty rating _____ X Summation Total = ___________

      TERMS OF THE SPORT
      Interesting nomenclature is part of the sport of marshmallow roasting/toasting. While there are many regional slang terms, the following list consists of the basic vocabulary used by those with interest in the art. Many of the terms have found their way into everyday usage.

      Acme – The largest manufacturer of high quality prods and accoutrements.

      Accoutrements – The tools and equipment used in competition

      Betty – A girlfriend (derisive).

      Blister – A raised, or bumpy area of a marshmallow usually light brown.

      Branded – Injury caused by touching a hot prod. See tongue brand.

      Burnt Bottom – Rare event where the marshmallow bottom is more deeply colored then the top or sides.

      Camille – A young prodigy with exceptional talent (from Camille Wright).

      Crud – A badly roasted/toasted marshmallow.

      Cubes – Coals from charcoal briquettes.

      Diamond – High scoring marshmallow.

      DQ – Disqualified. Synonyms: Dairy Queen, burnt, caught, ousted.

      Duds – Old or stale marshmallows. Synonym: Peeps

      Dust – Ash over coals. Example: Those logs need dusting.

      Eraser – Marshmallow that is smooth and evenly roasted/toasted on all sides excluding bottom which remains uncolored.

      Flamed – Catching a marshmallow on fire. A reason for disqualification.

      Flamer – person who likes to catch the marshmallow on fire. Often a teenage girl desiring attention. Example: She is a flamer.

      Gauntlet – cooking mitt used to protect the prod supporting hand closest to the fire.

      Gem – An uncooked marshmallow.

      Girl scout – Someone who suggests making smor’s.

      Guts – The inner portion of a marshmallow. Example: She sucked the guts right out of the skin.

      Gut sucker – person who regularly removes and eats the guts prior to eating the skin.

      Heat – Coals. Example: The heat looks good.

      Idiot Proof – Exceptionally good location at pit. Example: That Girl Scout was idiot proofed and still flamed.

      Jam – Cooking two Marshmallows on a single prod. Example: He’s going on a jam.

      King Kong – A type of jam where two marshmallows are one a top the other.

      Koz – A talented competitor with little formal training (from M. Kosmides).

      Logs – Coals made from burning wood.

      Lucy – A girl with good roasting/toasting ability, a complement. Refers to the first girl champion (from Lucy Lotsziver).

      Mask – Full-face shield, often embellished used for eye protection.

      M&M’s – Miniature Marshmallows. Synonym: Bits, Nubs, Babies

      Ned – A novice, usually first time competitor. Example: That Ned pooped and then flamed in the first round.

      Pit – Fire ring

      Pooped – See Soiled

      Prod – Instrument used to roast/toast marshmallow. See Tool.

      Puffing – The increase in the overall diameter of the finished marshmallow as compared to the untoasted product.

      Quack – Persons who talks well of their abilities but do not perform well. Example: There goes another quack and his Betty. All he throws are undies.

      Rabbit Raisins – Roasted/Toasted M&M’s. Example: He pooped those rabbit raisins.

      Resting – Removing marshmallow from coals to cool and/or to inspect surface.

      Sag – A partially toasted marshmallow that is in jeopardy of falling off a prod.

      Sag-score – A reduced value assigned if marshmallow sags during the scoring.

      Score – Value assigned the marshmallow in competition.

      Scoooorrrree – A very high value. Example: He Scooorrrees!! It’s a Diamond!!

      Skin – The outer cooked portion of a marshmallow.

      Soiled – Marshmallow that has touched ashes. See Pooped

      Spade – Small trowel used to arrange coals.

      Specs – Welders goggles used during competition to better see the coals.

      Stick – a wooden prod

      Tine – The slender pointed portion of a prod. Where the marshmallow is placed.

      Throw – To toast/roast a marshmallow.

      Thunderhead – A browned, expanded and often warted top with the remaining portion of the marshmallow only lightly colored. Synonyms: muffin head, anvil, flat top.

      Toasted – A person defeated by a Toasty. Also toast. Example: Lucy toasted that flamer.

      Toasty – A champion.

      Tool – A prod.

      Tongue brand – injury from hot prod on tongue or mouth when removing a roasted/toasted marshmallow without using hands. Synonym: Frenching.

      Trial – A competition.

      Tunnel of Love – a deep trough of coals arranged to allow simultaneous roasting/toasting of top, bottom and sides (while turning) of marshmallow.

      Undies – derogatory term used to describe lightly roasted /toasted marshmallows, having low scores.

      Warts – Dark and highly blistered surface of a marshmallow.

      Yesterday – A prior tournament. Example: He flamed yesterday.

      Zebra – Irregular coloration (often stripe like) around the marshmallow caused from inconsistent rotational speed.

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