by Maggie Van Ostrand
not in the know, call a Mallomar a "cookie." Poor things. They don't know any
better. "Cookie" is not a descriptive word for a Mallomar, nor is cracker, nor
dessert, nor any other nomenclature yet created by man. Mallomar is a Mallomar
is a Mallomar, and that's the way it is.|
There's no way you could make
Mallomars yourself. It's impossible, so forget about it. You have to seek the
double box with the shiny yellow wrapper displaying a picture of the contents
on the outside. Die-hard Mallomar fans have been known to suck on this picture,
once the Mals were gone.
An enormously appealing quality about the chocolate
coating is its crunch. It's imperative that the Mallomar is not cracked when the
box is opened, or the crunch is deflected and becomes merely a thwarted thud.
You see, a Mallomar's chocolate exterior is more of a crust than a coating. Or
even more accurate would be the word "mantle." It has a mantle of chocolate.
Besides being ambrosia of the gods, the individual history of the Mallomar's
ingredients ignite the imagination almost as much as their combined ingredients
tantalize the palate.
Few foods cause
such a passionate reaction at the mention of their name as does chocolate. That's
all you have to say to see that glazed look in someone's eyes, a look usually
reserved for lovers. Just the word "chocolate" evokes rolling waves of warm and
comforting feelings that transcend age, gender, nationality, and time itself.
Chocolate existed long before the Hersey family ever wrapped their kisses
in silver foil, before England's Cadbury made the first edible chocolate bar in
1847, and even before the Three Wise Men trekked across the desert with gifts.
Scientists have recently discovered residues of cocoa, the basis for chocolate,
in pots dating to 900 B.C. and perhaps even earlier. In all probability, the first
chocoholics were the Mayans.
The latest data supporting the Mayans obsession
with chocolate comes from ceramic vessels found at an archaeological site in Central
America, suggesting that liquid chocolate may have been poured back and forth
from jug to jug to produce the froth that was considered by the Maya and the Aztecs
to be the best part of a chocolate drink.
It's easier to quit booze,
smoking and caffeine, than to think you'd never have another taste of chocolate
in your life. Chocolate has frequently been given a bad rap, like it causes acne,
heart problems and tooth rot. Not so. If you've got zits, they're probably from
being the zit age, plus the University of Pennsylvania could find no correlation
between chocolate and acne. Regarding bad teeth, one of the ingredients in chocolate
(cocoa butter) might even prevent tooth decay by protectively coating the teeth.
As to heart problems, University of California, Davis, has found that chocolate
carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower
the risk of heart disease. So there.
An equally crucial component
to the Mallomar is marshmallow. Where does this word come from? It's simple --
A mallow is a type of shrub whose cousins are hibiscus, okra, and cotton. Okay,
that's the second half of the word. The first half is where the mallow grows.
In a marsh. A confection is made from the root of the marsh mallow.
mallow was first found in an Olde English medical book written about 1000 A.D.
and it was spelled merscmealwe.
Aside from toasting them over campfires
and melting them atop holiday yams, the marshmallow was pretty limited in appeal.
Until the Mallomar.
The same can be said for the round graham cracker
base of a Mallomar.
For the round base of the Mallomar, we can thank an early 19th-Century Presbyterian
clergyman named Sylvester Graham. Born in Connecticut in 1794, Graham studied
at Amherst College and was ordained to the ministry when he was in his early 30s.
A man of decided opinions, Graham's major convictions concerned what people
ate and drank. An ardent advocate of the temperance movement, the Reverend Mr.
Graham was absolutely convinced of the merits of eating only vegetables. He also
believed people who didn't eat meat wouldn't drink alcohol.
temperance, and vegetarianism" became his cry, and he attracted an avid following
of believers. In the mid-1800s, many big cities had Graham Boarding Houses, testaments
to healthy living as directly related to healthy eating.
and Graham crackers caught on big time. They used only wheat flour, which Graham
had prepared especially. As people practiced what he preached, the demand for
the flour grew until it became available to the public, and his name was forever
associated with it.
The Mallomar, as we know it today, could not have
existed without him.
facts are interesting for one reason. You have to have chocolate and marshmallow
and Graham crackers to make Mallomars, those delectable, delicious, divine dumplings
of desire. One Mallomar is too many and a thousand are not enough.|
their makers know that warm weather is bad for the product and at the very least
takes the distinctive sheen off the chocolate, they're sold only in the winter
months, from October to May. This makes it difficult if you live on the west coast
where there is no winter to speak of. They're more of a New York thing and when
you're born and raised there, you can get the bends by moving west where Mals
are not easy to come by.
Made since 1913 by Nabisco (then called the
National Biscuit Company) in a single Pennsylvania bakery, Mallomars have a thick
layer of rounded, smooth marshmallow on a circular Graham cracker base, all covered
in pure dark chocolate. Because of the manner in which the chocolate is poured
over the marshmallow and Graham cracker, there's a nipple atop the Mallomar. This
only adds to the legend of the Mallomar -- the ultimate comfort food. Oh Mama!
For the impatient Mallomar fanatic, a fast bite of all three parts simultaneously
results in a rush of integrated flavors flooding the taste buds simultaneously.
A quick thrill, which necessitates a second Mallomar immediately. This can cause
an addition for which the Bette Ford Center has no known remedy.
the discerning fanatic, a slow embrace of teeth on chocolate is the preferred
method of enjoyment. First, the sound triggers one's imagination. Is it the sound
of you as a child with boots cracking the layer of ice over snow on a wintry morning,
or the click of high heels on a marble floor? Then comes the texture -- rich,
dark, sensual. If Denzel Washington were a food, he'd be that. The succulent marshmallow
can either be allowed to slowly melt in one's mouth, or squished sweetly and tantalizingly
between one's tongue and the roof of one's mouth. Or between the teeth, if nobody
For the method eaters, there are at least three wondrous
ways to enjoy a Mallomar. Eater number one enjoys the Mallomar in three to four
bites and it's gone forever; Eater number two separates the Graham cracker base
and eats that first, followed by the remaining chocolate-covered marshmallow which
can be eaten either right-side up or down. Some enjoy the cracking sound more
if it's made with the bottom teeth. Eater number three is the highest Mallomar
aficionado -- He can get the chocolate off without denting the marshmallow. This
takes years of practice. Like living a good life, it's not the result that counts,
it's the journey.
Those not in the know may easily say the Mallomar is
just a cookie, but that's like saying Fred Astaire was just a dancer.
Maggie Van Ostrand
November 10, 2005 column