To be gluten-free is to be messy. There are no graham crackers to hold our s’mores, no hamburger buns at In-N-Out to cradle our burgers. At least for my grandmother’s specialty, strawberry shortcake, there is, finally, gluten-free Bisquick to bring home that taste of childhood. In general, however, instead of politely dressed salads we have components, allowing others to indulge in croutons and dressings with soy while we shake homemade vinaigrette out of small containers that inevitably leak all over the gluten-free soy packets in our handbags.
Sometimes I think it’s s’mores, though, that I miss the most. In my younger days, I liked to shock my s’mores into submission, burning my marshmallows black, the char melting over the Hershey’s chocolate like slow-moving lava. Back then, my mother wasn’t worried about the carcinogenics from the blackened marshmallow. And yet today, at camp-outs, I see kids eating store-bought cookies out of landfill-clogging packets, each cookie individually wrapped so that no little hands touch the goodie belonging to another.
So at 43, there’s not much place in my life for eating s’mores anymore. I can’t eat as much as I used to, and a sugar overload keeps me awake at night.
But I did indulge recently in a s’more at a friends house. A gluten-free s’more, that is.
Instead of a stick, I stuck my marshmallow onto the business end of a metal skewer. Instead of a campfire built from wood by beer-guzzling dads, we had a gas-lit Duraflame log. But the sentiment is the same, the friendship and family, with the stars overhead and blankets snuggled around shoulders.
The kids poked their marshmallows in and out of the fire, squealing every time a flame rose high. I sat patiently, turning my marshmallow so each edge, every plane would burn to a crisp. The second it caught fire I brought the skewer to my mouth, lightly blowing until every flame was extinguished. I deftly cracked an entire bar of Hershey’s chocolate in half, and smooshed my marshmallow between the two halves, forgoing the graham cracker all together. The kids protested, claiming I had more chocolate than they did. I told them more chocolate was just one of the benefits of being gluten free. I’m not sure they bought it, but as my teeth sunk into the gooey mess dribbling down my fingers, I really didn’t care.
For the gluten free among us, there will never again be crispy sweet graham crackers that taste like childhood, but we’ll always have s’mores.