A piece for the Independent on the new trend for high-end marshmallows
Sweet foods, all comforting, soft and pappy, have proved popular in this recession. Over the past few years we’ve seen revivals or rediscoveries of cupcakes, whoopie pies, syrups and bacon jams, of posh ice creams and doughnuts, the American-style pairings of pig and sugar. Mouth-coating sweetnesses that help people stave off fears of the debtors’ yard. Now it seems to be marshmallows’ turn. Those lurid, chemical, factory extrusions are suddenly all-natural, imbued with fresh fruit, natural flavourings, authentic fillings and sweet gourmet prejudice.
How to account for this? Marshmallows represent a Proustian jolt back to childhood: to campfires, sweetie jars, the Ghostbusters films, fairgrounds and the Sunday cinema pick ‘n’ mix. Their tongue-coating squidginess is deeply reassuring. So it was perhaps inevitable that marshmallows would make a comeback. What is surprising is the speed with which they’ve done so.
The ‘gourmet’ marshmallow trend seems to have started in Vancouver, where an outfit called Butter Baked Goods began to produce high-end examples as early as 2009 – they now flog them across North America. All of a sudden marshmallow shops, or sweet shops or bakeries specialising in marshmallows, have been opening across the US. The New York Times says marshmallows are “having a moment in retro-land”. They “are the new cupcakes,” claims a co-owner of the Three Tarts Bakery in Manhattan, where fancy marshmallows go for roughly $1 apiece, in flavours such as mango, passion fruit and strawberry-basil.
Rural Americans are also catered for, with mail-order marshmallow companies experiencing a surge in sales. One such is called Sugar Poofs – not a name that translates particularly well – but the flavours are bold and inspired: lavender and vanilla, banana curry, and a white Russian, including coffee liqueur and Irish cream.