American kitsch: marshmallows

Monday, February 3, 2014

All of our snow this winter reminds me of the popular Christmas song, “Marshmallow World”, that delights in snow and wintertime. Marshmallows, a sugary, spongy confection, are a kitchy food and pure fun. Kitsch is defined as art, objects, or design considered to be in bad taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic way.

Marshmallows alone have a pleasing consistency and are fantastic if you have a sweet tooth. They're great plain from the bag, dropped in hot chocolate, covered with chocolate, or roasted on a stick. When marshmallows are an ingredient in a recipe, desserts acquire a kitschy (and amazing) quality. Think s’mores, Rice Crispies Treats, and Peeps.

Food artisans are looking at the marshmallow in a different way, trying to give it a little class. They’ve taken the soft, fuffy, gooey, irresistable treat and created flavors like cinnamon, espresso, chocolate-rosemary, mango, and other dizzying combinations. New businesses dedicated to the marshmallow have also sprung up lately; Mia Mallows and Plush Puffs are some clever, cute examples.

I prefer the clear plastic bag of plain marshmallows for .99 cents sold at my grocery store. I know it’s not very elegent, but neither is anything kitsch.

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