Today is National S’mores Day, so, even though she is away at camp, I’ve got celebrating with my daughter on my mind.
If there is such a thing as a S’mores Addict, she’s definitely one. I, on the other hand…not so much.
She is unsettled by this difference of opinion. I tell her it must be a cultural thing, that this quintessential American treat must not tickle my fancy because I grew up in Venezuela, where the closest thing to melted marshmallows was the leche condensada I’d have drizzled on the coconut raspados, or snow cones, for an extra 25 cents. Hershey’s never made it into my mother’s pantry – that pantry was bursting with local Venezuelan chocolate favorites with names that sung: Samba, Suzy, Cri-Cri, Ping-Pong!
It’s a tough sell. Ever since my daughter, a native South Floridian, has been old enough to chew, she’s been consuming anything S’mores-related and trying her darnest to win me over to the S’mores crowd.
Obviously, there is a constant supply of Hershey’s chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows in our pantry at all times.
And then, whatever S’mores-esque products The Marketing Gods come out with, we must buy:
S’mores Pop tarts.
S’mores ice cream.
S’mores Rice Krispies Treats
Even S’mores Goldfish!
My daughter promises me, with each new product purchased, that I will like S’mores this time around. I taste, hear Marketing Gods’ evil laughter and, well, tell her to go ahead and enjoy it, and leave it at that.
But my daughter is persistent, hopeful and never one to give up on whatever it is she sets her mind to. I do love her for that. So, when we found ourselves trying out a local restaurant, The Red Cow and I saw her face light up as she read the menu, I knew something was up.
“Mom, they have a S’mores brownie,” she announced. “You gotta, we’ve gotta…”
I knew the drill.
We’d get it.
I must try.
I will love S’mores this time around.
“Okay,” I told her, and the pact was done.
After devouring our Smoking Gun sandwiches the waitress placed the coveted dessert in front of my daughter, whose eyes looked like they were about to fall out.
Something strange happened.
Did I tell you that part?
The part where I heard music.
Not the country music crooning in the background (that stuff always makes 12-hour smoked brisket and cowboy potatoes taste better, you should know.)
It was more like church-choir music.
For a second.
As she placed the plate down.
The plate, which, OMG…glowed.
Not in a creepy, chemically way, no! In a golden-spiritual-live-in-the-present-Buddhist kind of way.
This all happened in seconds, see. While my daughter’s eyes popped out. I heard music. I saw a glow.
Then I rubbed my own eyes.
Because I was a jaded anti-s’mores Venezuelan, remember?
So something must be wrong with my eyes.
This dessert looked…
“Mom, this is beautiful,” my daughter stated.
Yes! Beautiful! Took the words right out of my mouth!
What can I tell you?
I want to tell you the truth: as cheesy as it sounds when I’ll type it out.
I want to tell you what happened, exactly as it did.
I want to tell you that I saw the light. I saw the S’mores light!
There was this enormous cloud of perfectly melted marshmallow hugging chocolate and some sort of graham cracker crust underneath and perched beside it an utterly unpretentious scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and good God I wanted to snatch that plate away from my child, my flesh and blood, and devour it all myself.
But I didn’t.
I still have an ounce of composure and an itty-bit of restraint.
I pride myself in believing I am a pretty-decently-okay parent.
So, I grabbed the sides of the wobbly table and said, as calmly as I could:
“No darling, go ahead.”
“What?” My daughter asked, confused. “Oh? You want some, Mom?” She offered, watching me closely, witnessing change.
“Oh, sweetie, thanks, but, you, uh, you can, um, just…”
There’s a very important part of this story I’ve left out.
It’s about my daughter.
I told you she’s sixteen.
I told you she’s a S’mores Addict.
I haven’t told you how incredibly giving and perceptive she is.
You see, at that moment, while an imaginary S’mores choir sang and our tiny table for two lit up with delicious joy, my daughter, the S’mores Addict, pushed the untouched plate under my chin.
“Here Mom, go for it. I’m sure you’re gonna love it this time.”
I’m not sure if it was that soft, sweet blanket of surrendered marshmallow or the rich chocolate brownie dancing with buttery graham crust underneath. It all tasted magnificent in the company of my girl, smiling and savoring the moment with me, without even taking her first bite.
I have a confession to make.I’m not sure it’s the right one to do, this being an upscale [insert giggle] food blog with upscale food followers (right?) but nonetheless, if anything, I strive to be true to myself and my readers and so here it goes:I go to Costco to shop.
Sometimes.Rarely.But sometimes.On occasions maybe more than I should.But I go.Now, to my defense let me remind you all that I live in South Florida: Plantation to be exact, which is not necessarily your haven of food markets and such.Lightly put, this ain’t Santa Monica or Paris, both hosting amazing food markets. When I went to the Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier last April, I met Amelia Saltsman, author of The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook and I was ready to hop in her suitcase and head home with her. Unfortunately, the closest thing to a food market for me would be Florida City (a 1 1/2 hour trek), and, most definitely on my way down to the Keys I’d make a wonderfully delicious stop there, but, on a day-to-day basis, driving such a distance for my produce wouldn’t make much ecological sense anyway, considering I am hauling around in a minivan (at least it’s not a huge truck or something). But with words such as organic, sustainable, and slow foods bubbling up to the awareness of the American eater, my Costco confession is not a good thing.
Some culinary folks would be okay with it, even helpful. Rachael Ray has tips on how to make shopping in warehouse stores less daunting. Other’s, like Oprah, try and encourage us to shop at our local greenmarket. But seriously, there is something about the size of the place that mesmerizes me (there I going being politically incorrect again).Now, I didn’t grow up in this country.As most of you know, I grew up in Venezuela, where, if you wanted bread, you went to the panaderia (bread shop), meat:carniceria (yep, butcher) and fruit, you’d head on to the fruteria (you got this one).Now all of these where situated in the cozy neighborhood of Chacao, a bustling maze of streets in Caracas filled with pedestrians, businesses and cars.It was a five minute walk from my house, and I would usually make the trip with my nanny, Yoli, and our steady rolling iron basket with dune buggy wheels imported from Spain.It was an afternoon of schmoozing with the neighbors, tasting samples of papaya, and picking up some unplanned sweet rolls merely because the had just left the oven and their aroma demanded purchasing.
So flash forward to Plantation, Florida and take pity on me please. It’s a lovely place. Serene and green. But nobody walks here.Nobody.In fact, I do believe South Florida, specifically Ft. Lauderdale (which is ten minutes from me) ranked as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians.It’s car zone here, whether you like it or not.First of all, it’s just so damn hot most of the time (I mean, we are in mid October and its 96 degrees outside).People like to be sealed in their cars, a/c blasting, music blaring, shut out from the world, entering and exiting their hermetically sealed universe via garage. So, step out of your suburban home and it would be no surprise to find no one but maybe an occasional aggravated dog walker obligated to be outdoors.
That being said, you can imagine the food situation isn’t optimal.Supermarkets abound, and I visit them regularly, so much so that everyone knows me there quite well.And then there is gleamingly large Costco.Now I am not a fan a warehouses in general, but when they are filled with food, I can’t help myself.And even as I walk in and am greeted by mountains of empty boxes (which shoppers use to pile on their bought goods (hey, at least no plastic bags, that’s good, right?)) I feel a pang of guilt reading what these empty boxes once stored:grapes from Brazil, avocados from Mexico, asparagus from Peru.Once viewed proudly as the United Nations of food, this stuff is deemed bad, bad, bad in the age of locavore, and I should know and do better as a food muse. I should. Except that some of the stuff is lovely.Big and plump and beautifully lovely and it’s not just the lighting of the place, I promise, it’s the actual stuff.
I am a good person, I am.And if I lived somewhere where I could get a plethora of local grown foods, I’d be the first in line (on my bicycle).But I am geographically challenged you see, and so I slip in here on occasion and go mad buying.Of course, why one person needs a box of 25 croissants is beyond me, but I grab it anyhow. This isn’t easy for me you know, and I’m not just talking about pushing the jumbo sized shopping cart and maneuvering through the waves of regulars.The whole experience is filled with conflict as I recall my shopping days in Venezuela and compare them to what I’ve ended up doing now. It’s a sense of failure of sorts, a resigned “this is what happens when you end up in the suburbs” pity bit, until I see the nice granny in the corner giving out samples of lobster spread and I jump with a big “ooh” and rush over to grab five crackers.She gives me a dirty look (proper etiquette assumes you are only supposed to take one) but I figure it’s all about excessiveness here, so why the hell not.
I find myself honing in on the tomatoes.I’ve spotted them from a distance and they look lovely- round and plump and just perfect.It’s still October, so, maybe I can convince myself it isa late, late summer crop and thus I can get away with eating them with a clear consience.I know this not to be true but I love tomatoes so.I check the label to see where they’ve come from:Canada.Close enough, right?We’re likebrothers, no?I make a mental note to move to California with Amelia and grab the package.As I maneuver around the cheeses I can’t resist the gigantic tub of mozzarella, imported straight from Italy.Ah, Italian mozarrrella. Me piace! How can one say no? I’ve already got the perfect meal in mind:insalata caprese. I’ll use my Portuguese olive oil, some of Mark Bitterman’s fabulous Kauai Guava Smoked Salt from his lovely store, The Meadow and then I’ll top it off with my own home grown basil, born in the USA.Yes, it would be a United Nation’s meal at my house (with our own representative present), and somehow the guilt began to ease as I viewed it more of a celebration of flavors meeting from all corners of the world, ending up in my home for one big, happy and tasty ending.