Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What? You’ve never had S’mores before?

I’m sitting in a folding chair outside at Goldstream Park. The smell of dead salmon wafts past me mingled with the ash and smoke from the fire, which is struggling a bit in this damp weather (the fire, not the dead salmon). It’s not exactly raining…well…OK, it’s raining. But just lightly. The cedar trees tower over me and I can just make out the top of Mt. Finlayson above me through the swirling mist. It looks wet up there and I can see rock faces slick with water. Across the fire pit my daughter Zoe is enjoying a marshmallow as only an 8yr old can. She is simultaneously licking it and melding her soul to it and clearly enjoying every second of it. A stainless steel cup of water sits on the fire grate ready for the licorice fern root that Jacob is peeling.

I have been dragging my kids to Goldstream Park every November since they were little. At first we would stand and stare at the salmon as they limped upstream like so many zombies with bits falling off them and huge chunks of flesh missing. In the last few years, the fish have only drawn minimal interest from the kids. I mean, really, how many half-dead salmon can you look at before they all start to look the same. And they have each been on a bazillion field trips led by well-meaning teachers who, if they had checked with last-year’s teacher would have learned that the kids had been there done that. And the year before as well. But whatever. When we go, it’s not about science as much as it is about sitting around a fire, defying mother nature, and eating huge quantities of marshmallows, hot dogs, and most importantly, as many s’mores as possible. Salad & fruit is replaced with Graham crackers and chocolate, milk with hot chocolate, and the only vegetable in sight is ketchup. It’s all good.

We usually undertake this venture by ourselves but this year we invited some friends along. We got through the hot-dog/hot chocolate/roasting marshmallows part without incident, except for a moment when our Bulgarian friend, Jivko, decided the fire needed some attention and proceeded to fan it with great gusto, scattering ash, embers and smoke everywhere. Good thing it was raining or he would have started a forest fire.

Note how the chairs empty as the fanning increases…

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That’s Heather on the left, barely visible through through the swirling ash and smoke, and Jiv on the rightDSC05391

After a few minutes of staring at the fire while the various children dusted themselves off and roasted marshmallows, and Chewbacca the dog tried unsuccessfully to navigate his way through chairs and legs without getting completely wound up, I declared it was time for s’mores. “What is this s’mores?” said the Bulgarian. “You know, s’mores…marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate…Like as in ‘God that’s delicious I want s’more'…?” I said. Heather and I tried in vain to explain them. I was floored. This was a crime! At this rate he was probably also about to tell me that he had never heard of toques, Neil Young, or Anne of Green Gables. And he couldn’t play the immigrant card either as he has been in Canada for 20yrs.

He still gave me a look like I had three heads and said something to the effect of “No and I don’t know what you are talking about.”  Apparently they don’t do s’mores in Bulgaria. Whatever. I was going to start into a big explanation but I decided instead that a demonstration was in order. For those of you who are also unfamiliar with this most excellent of North American traditions, here’s how it works:

Start with a fire


Then lay down your first graham cracker


Stick a marshmallow on that baby


Add some chocolate and another graham cracker and slap the whole thing on the fire and let it melt…

And may I just say here that you must not be stingy with the chocolate. Mothers and fathers everywhere, just chill out and turn a blind eye when your kids stick a huge chunk of chocolate on that bad-boy. It’s all part of it. If you don’t use enough chocolate, your s’mores will appear neat and orderly. This is wrong. s’mores, by nature, are messy and must get all over your face or they don’t taste as good.



Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!

At this point further discussion was rendered impossible as our mouths were full of chocolate, marshmallow etc. There was a line up for the s’mores maker but fortunately the kids kept themselves occupied roasting the perfect marshmallow while they waited their turn. At the store, I had wondered that perhaps 800 marshmallows was going to be too many but it turned out to barely be enough. The girls did themselves proud, and the parents were pretty good too:




Nicely browned.



Good work.


The author, with her masterpiece. Well, part of it anyway.

And, in the one and only time when s’mores are ever like half-dead salmon, there comes a time when you have had enough. We packed everything up and, in the semi-darkness, made our way to our cars. The fire was still burning cheerfully as we left and I felt kinda sad leaving it, thinking of all the yummy things we could be cooking over its coals. Actually, I had that thought for about 4 seconds before realizing that I had consumed more calories than a small army and would not need to eat again. Ever. Zoe confirmed this thought in the car by declaring the bag of marshmallows ‘gross’ and that she couldn’t even look at it. Strangely enough, she was back into them the next day. She actually asked if she could have one in her lunch. I think she was confused by my campfire enthusiasm that one minute flared up and told her she could and should eat as many marshmallows and as much chocolate as possible, and the next, had died down and was admonishing her for even thinking about them. Oh well. Sorry! Can’t be the model mother all the time. And if you’re inconsistent from time to time then it just helps them all the more to appreciate you when you are consistent. Or something. Whatever. Anyway.

So if you, like my friend Jiv, have been in Canada for 20 yrs and never had s’mores before, there’s still time. I would be happy to come along and demonstrate for you. And Jiv will probably want to come, too, if this last picture is any indication….

Yes, they were that good.


Thanks for reading!



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