I know: you're doing a bang up job, Emily, writing a food blog that isn't about food.
Well, it is about food, in a way. But more importantly, it is about why food matters.
Some people say that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. Here, I must disagree. I believe that it is taste. Let me explain: The act of eating is one that is both primal and communal, and has brought so many people together, it is no wonder that we often associate food with our past. Meal time is such an elementary universal truth. Sometimes, something so simple, so elegantly uncomplicated and downright pedestrian, can bring the joy of taste-bud memory, which hits your tongue like a lightening bolt and sends an electric shock all the way to your Temporal Lobe, triggering immediate warm and fuzzy thoughts of your grandmother as you bite into a warm piece of apple pie. Tasting your past is just so much more corporal than recalling a memory on your own.
For me, one such memory had laid dormant in my cerebrum for the past 9 years.
My dad used to take me camping. He was proud of the fact that we were "real" campers- no trailers, air mattresses or portable grills hitched to the back of your car. We camped at French Creek State Park with tents, sleeping bags, and stuck our dinner into the campfire because, damn it, we are outdoors and that is what you do.
But my favorite part was the S'mores.
I mean, come on. What kid doesn't like S'mores? It's a chocolate and marshmallow sandwich, and you get to light shit on fire.
For me, eating a S'more was always about more than the sticky sensation of gluing one's fingers together with melted marshmallow. It takes me back to A-42, our campsite at French Creek, and I can smell that musty, charcoal smoke of the campfire all over again, feel the heat of the blaze on my cheeks, hear the dull, hollow drill of a woodpecker in the distance, and remember being with my dad, proud of the fire we'd built, and the fact that I could be like him, a "real camper."
I didn't think I was ever going to have something that tasted even close to a S'more ever again. I did not have high hopes for gluten-free graham crackers- it's hard to find a way to recreate a brand-name product which is so instantly recognizable. Some flavors are just too ingrained in us to reproduce.
The Grainless Baker however, surprised me. They make a graham cracker cookie that is pretty damn close. It's denser, and not as flaky as its glutenous equivalent, but flavor-wise, it was pretty dead-on. It's more substantial consistency makes it more durable, so the S'more doesn't break apart as easily. I bought them at Wegmans, one of my increasingly favorite place to shop for gluten-free brands.
I roasted my marshmallow over the open-flame of our gas stove which, by all accounts, does not even come close to the perfection of a campfire-char, but hey, I'm working with what I have right now. I gingerly slid my toasted beauty off the kabob skewer which I had improvised as a stick, and layered it carefully between two perfectly portioned pieces of Hershey's Milk Chocolate and smushed the pieces of graham cracker down so that the warm, gooey marshmallow insides exploded and began melting the chocolate on contact.
One bite, and I'm there again, in the middle of the woods, crickets chirping and whirring around me, listening to my dad tell his favorite ghost stories, and keeping a constant, watchful eye out for bears.