In Defense of Burnt Marshmallows


Summer is quickly approaching which means it's finally time for camping trips and fires and s'mores. With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to share this, an essay that my good friend Steph Barnhart wrote for a project that we were working on awhile back but ultimately never ended up being used. The funny part? We both hate burnt marshmallows. Enjoy!


In Defense of Burnt Marshmallows

I love them charred. Crisped. Seared by the blue part of the flames, the ones hiding underneath the smoldering log. While my friend slowly twirls his around and around, just above the bright orange flame at the peak of the fire, I am patient. Waiting. Crouching low to the ground so as to have the ideal angle at the flame best suited to create my burnt masterpiece. That’s the wrong way, he says. Don’t let it catch fire.

The perfect mallow – my perfect mallow – is the one that most other campfire-goers fight to avoid. The others, lovers of a lightly fire-kissed golden gooball, lack the refined taste necessary to enjoy the black, carbon-laden film that defines the outer layer of my cylinder of sugar.

When I pull back from the ring, brandishing a magnificent flame at the end of the stick, everyone else is alarmed.

“FIRE!” They yell. “Blow it out! Quick! You can save it!”

I grin, smile lit up by the blaze.
This is exactly as I would have it. I make eye contact with the little ball of light, but only for a fractional second before I hoist it to within blowing distance.

A breath, expelled quickly to douse the flame, and it’s out.


Perceived as imperfect, ruined, wasted by the others, my marshmallow is ready. I would have it no other way.

I’ve learned from my mother that what you love is worth defending, despite what others say. In a love letter to it, the burnt marshmallow, I would mention that I’m happy no one else around the fire thinks it is good or worthy. Glad that no one envies my mallow or wishes it was the centerpiece of his own s’more. To remove a marshmallow from the under the log too soon, to pull away before it catches fire, is indolent, lacking in completeness. And while others suggest that I’ve done it all wrong, that I’ve destroyed my campfire snack, I use two fingers to push the toasted treat off the stick and onto my taste buds where it belongs.