Thursday, September 5, 2013

Marshmallow is a PLANT, say what?

      Marshmallows were not always a vegan's fluffiest nightmare.  A marshmallow is, in fact, a plant.  A mallow found in a marsh. Marsh mallow.  Egyptians had plenty of marshes and therefore plenty of mallows with which to make sweet treats.  As with most plants found in this habitable world, it was originally used for medicinal purposes.  The root extracts, as well as chewy sweets made with honey and either the plant's sap or pith, were used to soothe sore throats. 
       French confectioners continued the use of marshmallow sap to literally whip up treats similar to the modern marshmallow through the 19th Century.  All that whipping took a lot out of the Frenchies, so they devised ways to cut down on the labor by adding egg whites or gelatin.  The marshmallow as we know it today, that little squatty cylinder, is a product of an automated process developed in the economic boom following WWII.  Essentially, it squirts out in a tube shape, gets cut down, and rolled around in corn starch. 
       Lately, the kids are making them at home, usually in a pan, so they're cut into squares. We have some here at 20th St. from the Little Flower Candy Company.  I tried, and failed, about 5 Christmases ago to make some for my family.  I imagined making hot chocolates and wowing the fam, but 4 gelatin sheets and a fifty dollar candy thermometer later, and all I had were glossy white strands of goo.  I have it all documented with pictures which I wish were on this computer so I could properly punctuate this rambling, but instead I'll just direct you to an unfortunate news story involving marshmallows and Pennsylvania.  OOh. wait. goody. I found my pictures on the interweb...

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