When the ancient Egyptians came to know the properties of a wild herb with a sap that could be mixed with honey, they found it so special that they reserved it only for the gods and pharaohs. Fast forward to the late 1920s and the Girl Scouts can be credited with publishing a recipe for roasting the confection and adding chocolate and graham crackers creating what we know today as a s'mores, earning them a sweet spot in my heart forever.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOSHUA ESTRIN
But it was not until nearly 1950 when Alex Doumakes found a way to mass produce marshmallows and with his patented process forever changed the culinary foodiescape.
Whether eaten straight from the bag or mixed in any number of holiday recipes, the ubiquitous treat has become an iconic celebrity of sorts in pantries across the globe and a regular staple in my diet.
As an avid traveler, they are the perfect companion during long flights and late nights. They also graciously report for service when packing fragile treasures bought at various ports of call.
Yet I must admit, I have a rather unique relationship with my sugary pal and as such have spent the last decade finding ways in which to enjoy her that defy the mundane. I am addicted, and whether roasted or toasted, I have endeavored to create the perfect treat in the perfect setting.
With skewer in hand, I've battled the elements to bronze her to perfection over the outdoor barbeque during the dead of winter. I have taken her both camping and "glamping", allowing for her brilliance to shine near an open flame on many a dark and starry night. But, it was during my recent climb to the top of Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala that I found my chance to prove that the ultimate marshmallow experience can only be realized hunched over the vent of an active volcano; and it was nothing short of "fantastical."
For the sake of context and to dispel misconceptions, Guatemala is the northernmost of all the Central American countries. While it has a tumultuous history, I felt more than safe during my week-long adventure. My ability to speak Spanish in the country was definitely helpful, but the gracious people I met were eager to practice a bit of English with my non Spanish-speaking travel companions, and teach me some Mayan phrases as well.
Rising high above the clouds at 2,552 meters (8,373 ft.), Pacaya Volcano was the perfect location to realize my bucket-list dream, as this volcano is anything but dormant. With a "restless" core, it has erupted 23 times since the Spanish invasion, most recently in 2010, when it covered the town below with lava and ash.
I found my hike up to the peak remarkable, and after finding a stick and moving a few volcanic rocks I allowed the steam and heat to rise from the depths to honor my queen of confections in a collaboration of epic proportions.
The world of food and travel are forever a part of my DNA and sugar is my drug. At a time when things seem overly complicated, it is somehow comforting to know that peace of mind can still be found high above the clouds. In a place where Mother Nature meets Father Time, and despite all my best efforts, I still burn the roof of my mouth as I revel in the decadence of the toasted marshmallow and cross another adventure off my bucket-list, descending the mountain to once again live in the world of mere mortals.