Once upon a time I had a friend named Claudia. Actually, I still have a friend name Claudia and she’s probably reading this. Hi Claudia! Claudia was (is) from Austria (not to be confused with Australia) and went to my high school for a year as an exchange student. After she went back to her home country, I went for a visit. I came bearing three gifts of her choice. 1. Ramen noodles. 2. Cinnamon gum. 3. Marshmallows. Those are way better than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Ok, I totally see not being able to get Ramen noodles in Austria because I don’t imagine there to be too many Asians there. And I suppose maybe cinnamon gum is a bit too hot for some Europeans. But I didn’t see why the heck she would need marshmallows when surely they would have marshmallows in Europe, right? And then she told me that the marshmallows were different in Europe and that the American ones were better. And then, instead of actually trying a European marshmallow on any of my trips to Europe to see what the difference was, I tucked that little tidbit of information into the back of my brain and let it sit there for a while. A long while. This was year 2000.
Then one day many years later, I tried a marshmallow in Australia (not to be confused with Austria), and I thought to myself, “What the fuck is this?”
Sure enough, Australian marshmallows are like European marshmallows, and only vaguely like American marshmallows. Some of the differences include size. Americans like bigger portions and that’s certainly exhibited in the size of our marshmallows vs the Aussie marshmallow:
Also notice the colour. Aussie marshmallows usually come in white and pink, all mixed up in the same bag. Weird.
Then, if you look even closer, you’ll notice that the marshmallows are POWDERY. Huh?
And that powderiness leaves a residue on your fingers:
How messy! Ugh!
The flavour is completely off as well. It’s (surprisingly) sweeter than an American marshmallow, and almost tastes a bit fruity in a way. It’s like someone added a drop or two of really bad fake artificial strawberry flavour to the vat of marshmallow mixture. It’d be like the kind of flavouring they use in cough syrup except they just put a little bit so you only get a trace of the flavour. It’s the most bizarre thing.
When you put an American marshmallow in the microwave, it slowly starts to puff up – bigger and bigger and bigger and gooier – all the while retaining the same basic shape. It’s amazing what technological advances can do! But those advances seem to have not made it across the Pacific. When you put an Aussie marshmallow in the microwave, it all of a sudden gets really big but totally misshapen – like some sort of cancer cell – and then promptly flattens out as it begins to BURN. And it begins to burn after 15 seconds. WTF?
In case you’re wondering, my flatmate witnessed this and asked me what sort of scientific experiment I was doing. I should start wearing lab coat when I blog. But I digress.
A major thing to note: there are no Peeps around here for Easter. For a country that is obsessed with Easter – there are 3 days of national holidays for Easter (Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday) – there is an amazing shortage of the one thing Americans think of when we think Easter: Marshmallow Peeps!
For the Aussies – no, Americans don’t get any days off work for Easter. And we don’t have Hot Cross Buns. And Marshmallow Peeps are a staple of Easter for all Americans, even the Jews. Except for the Orthodox Jews because Peeps are marshmallows and therefore contain gelatin and therefore aren’t kosher but most other Jews don’t care because Peeps are really cool and they’re even better when you nuke them in the microwave because it’s like this little marshmallow chick is getting bigger and bigger like it’s going to turn into something like the Pillsbury Doughboy from Ghostbusters and torment your city but then you take it out of the microwave and eat it like you’re conquering the beast!
Or it is only me that does that?
Anywho. The main thing, however, is that the marshmallows here aren’t nearly as soft and fluffy as the ones back in the States. They are a bit more rigid. It may be something in the ingredients, but I can only guess. In the US, marshmallows generally contain corn syrup (as most things in America do), sugar, dextrose, modified cornstarch, water, gelatin, artificial colours and flavours, and tetrasodium pyrophosphate (whatever that is). In Australia, the ingredients go a little something like this:
Ok, so there’s no corn syrup because we’re not in America – that may have something to do with the difference. And the other sugars are different – glucose and invert sugar syrup instead of dextrose. Also, there’s wheat starch instead of modified cornstarch – maybe that changes the consistency? Maybe the Aussie marshmallows need more chemicals, like that tetrasodium pyrophosphate – maybe that’s the golden ticket! But the biggest differences for me are the fact that I just learned that Aussies spell gelatin with an “e” on the end and pronounce it “gel – a – teen” instead of “gel – a – tin”. Weird. Also, there’s beef in my marshmallow. Allow me to repeat:
THERE IS BEEF IN MY MARSHMALLOW.
Why do they need to put “(Beef)” on the label? We all know that gelatin comes from an animal but do we really need to have that imagery of cow parts and big slabs of raw meat in our minds every time we have dessert? I think not. Disgusting.
So, how did this all come up? Why am I blogging about marshmallows in late 2012 when I’ve known about this since early 2010? It’s because of Glen. Glen is my Irish friend – you read about him on my blog when he got his Australian citizenship in February of this year. Or maybe you didn’t. But you should have. Anyway, Glen has a new Canadian flatmate and that new flatmate was talking about s’mores and Glen was like “What is that?!?!?” and his new flatmate was going to show him but then I pointed out that the marshmallows are different and don’t work the same way and also you can’t get graham crackers here. There is no equivalent to the graham cracker here. Why?!?!?
Conveniently, I was heading off to the States so I brought back real marshmallows and graham crackers and some candy corn. Not that candy corn has anything to do with s’mores, but you can’t get candy corn here either so I thought it seemed appropriate and all of the Aussies were offended that all of the ingredients on candy corn were sugar-based but then tasted candy corn and shut the fuck up because it’s good. So yeah. Then I took my ingredients and bought some chocolate at the local grocery store because Cadbury is pretty equivalent to Hershey’s and we had a s’mores night at Glen’s place! Yay!
We toasted them over the stove because I don’t think building management would have liked us starting a campfire on the balcony.
And then we had s’mores!
Glen also tried an American marshmallow on its own. And you know what he said, super excitedly?
“It’s like a cloud!”
I’ll take that as heavenly.