Why you should care
Spreading the love of a gooey slice of America is your patriotic duty.
To those of us raised in the United States, a country of campfires and Scouts, the s’more is a childhood treasure. Like so many other lesser cultural highlights of my homeland, I had assumed the gooey dessert was world renowned. So when my wife and I moved from Maryland to Laos a few months ago, we were shocked to learn this was not the case — and not just among sticky-rice-craving locals.
Well-traveled expats from Europe, Australia and the Philippines looked at us cockeyed when we discussed the joys of a marshmallow-chocolate-graham-cracker sandwich. Upon further reflection, though, it does sound like a uniquely American mashup, one designed to hasten obesity. First mentioned in “Tramping and Trailing With the Girl Scouts” in 1927, the s’more has even inspired a Pop-Tart. (It’s also the best Pop-Tart flavor, but that’s a taste test for another day.)
Everyone broke out in fluff-smeared grins.
When I was packing for the move to Southeast Asia, my wife, who had arrived a few weeks in advance, instructed me to bring fat marshmallows, real graham crackers and proper squares of chocolate. Quality s’more ingredients are not typically available in Luang Prabang. Our friends were enthralled. Chanika Pudhom, who hails from Thailand, compared the sensation of eating a s’more to that of taking a bracing winter’s dip in a nearby waterfall: “Sweet but super delicious.” She was so smitten that she brought American-made marshmallows back from a Bangkok excursion, in order to make more s’mores.
Our import plan was not sustainable to keep up with growing demand at each charcoal-fueled party. Around town, plain chocolate is hard to find, marshmallows even tougher and no one on this side of the world has even heard of graham crackers. One evening, a dozen pals were enjoying a meal on our deck. By this time, the s’mores sensation had spread, and our Lao friends were eager for more. My wife and I had decent chocolate and not-ideal-but-workable mini marshmallows. The rub: We were fresh out of graham crackers. I walked to the mini-mart around the corner, casting about for a substitute. I happened upon some coconut-flavored biscuits — in the British sense, like cookies.
Our guests gathered around the hot coals, skewers in hand, making sure the marshmallows were browned but not burnt, just as my wife and I had taught them. The coconut biscuits worked well: They weren’t cloyingly sweet, and they gave the classic American dessert a hint of the tropics. Everyone broke out in fluff-smeared grins. I could almost hear “America the Beautiful” playing in the background.