The Junk Food Expert Says: We need to talk about S’mores

Actually, we only need to talk about a single aspect of s’mores making: The marshmallow roasting.

Notice how I didn’t say “the marshmallow burning” or the “marshmallow blackening.” I said roasting, and by definition, roasting is “the act of cooking something in an oven or over an open fire.” Other definitions state: “to cook by prolonged exposure to heat” and “to dry, brown or parch by exposing to heat.”

Nowhere in any definition are the following words used: burnt, singed, set ablaze, engulf in flame, ruin.

(Now to the point of all this.)

And yet lately when the process of cooking s’mores comes up in natural conversation, everyone I know seems to think the proper way to roast a marshmallow is to stick the goddamn thing in a fire until it looks like this:

burnt-marshmallow1burnt marshmallowburning-marshmallow-04

 

 

 

 

 

Normally I subscribe to the life theory of everybody being entitled to their own opinion. Not in this situation. When it comes to roasting marshmallows, there’s a right and a wrong, no in between.

And really it’s just a common sense thing. In what other scenarios do you purposely burn your food before eating it? Burnt pizza is the worst. Burnt toast is inedible. Burnt popcorn has ruined relationships. If you try to argue that burning the outside of a marshmallow is on par with getting your burger or steak well done, I will remind you that getting your burger or steak well done is an insult to good eating.

Here’s the other problem with burning your marshmallow: It’s a total copout. The satisfaction from a perfectly roasted marshmallow comes mostly from the effort you had to put in to make it that way. Holding the marshmallow over the exact right spot of the fire. Ever-so-slowly turning it to get it golden on all sides. Keeping a watchful eye to make sure it never crosses that line of no return (i.e. flames actually coming off of it). In my book, you’re a coward if you take the easy way out by plopping the marshmallow into the middle of the fire, waiting for it to be engulfed in flames and then blowing it out and proudly calling it “perfection.”

Originally I was going to write that if you’re the type of person who purposely sets your marshmallow on fire, I don’t want to be friends with you. But now I’m realizing that roughly 85% of my friends apparently do this. So instead I’ll just say this: If you purposely turn the outside of your marshmallow black, I think you’re certifiably insane and should have your head examined. I think you should be locked up.

For you crazy people out there, I dare you to roast a marshmallow the proper way next time you have the opportunity and tell me it’s not 500 times better than your outdated Neanderthal way of doing things.

Otherwise I’ll take your silence as an admission of wrongdoing.

You’re all very welcome…Someone had to bring this hard-hitting issue to the forefront.

Travel Days Always Cause Me To Eat Like a 300lb Man, And I Couldn’t Be Happier About It

I’m a fat, junk food-eating kid at heart. If there were no repercussions, I would probably consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 calories each day. I’m talking a gigantic breakfast burrito in the morning, pizza & soda for lunch, burger & fries from Five Guys for dinner, and most likely some snacks in between. Oh, and the Peanut Butter Cup Perfection from Cold Stone Creamery would be a nightly post-dinner occurrence.

You can have your grilled tilapia over quinoa and cranberry & walnut salad. I’ll take the junk food.

Unfortunately my life expectancy would probably plummet from its current range of 52-55 years old to the “dead at 35” range if I ate like this every day.

As a matter of fact, I eat this type of junk food almost none of the time anymore. Something about being 30 years old means there’s a 93% chance that every time I eat like this I feel like shit the next day. The number of Tums I consume to combat heartburn has gone from “never took a single Tums in my life up until age 28” to “if I’m eating a heavy meal I might as well just mix a handful of Tums into the main course and get a jump on that awful feeling.” It also seems like my girlfriend wants me to live long enough for us to own an entire herd of gigantic dogs…so she’s pretty motivated to help me eat healthy.

And this is exactly why I now look forward to “travel days” more than anything else in my life. It’s the only time I feel completely justified eating garbage. I’ve convinced myself that a day in which I travel far (longer than a two-hour drive or any length of plane ride) provides enough inconveniences to my normal routine that eating junk food is the only option I have.

And before you say “Yeah, but there are so many ways to avoid this behavior…you can pack a healthy lunch for a car ride or even a flight…or you can be selective and eat the healthiest options on the airport restaurant menus”…save it. The point isn’t that I act this way out of necessity. It’s that I want to have a built-in situation where I allow myself to binge on my favorite greasy and/or sugary foods.

OK, confession time. It’s not just on the days that I’m actually traveling. If I travel to San Francisco or Boston, which happens often, I eat every day I’m there like saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup are going away for good. Since I’ve lived in these two cities and have tried most of the good restaurants, I don’t feel compelled to seek out high-quality healthy meals from new places. So I eat bacon cheeseburgers from Wendy’s, steak & cheese subs from D’Angelo’s, carnitas burritos from Anna’s Taqueria, and just about anything else that makes a paper bag see-through if you rub that food on it for five seconds.

It’s a pretty amazing cycle actually. I spend every day at home eating healthy and exercising. So when I travel, I feel that it’s fine to have a few days of bad eating because I’ve earned it. And then when I get home from the vacation, I feel terrible about myself and work my ass off for a few days trying to lose the 13lbs I gained over that weekend. The net result will probably leave me at a soft, doughy 190lbs for the rest of my life, and that’s fine…because the fast food is just so damn good.

Now just so you know, I’m not completely disgusting. If I’m doing a long drive late at night (after dinner), I’m not going to be stopping five times for burgers & fries. In those situations I ease off the heavy meats and go for a lighter mix like this:

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That picture’s from a road trip to San Francisco from January. And that haul of snacks didn’t even get me through the first 150 miles.

So this week I head back to Boston for six days. I already have lunch plans on Thursday with a friend to devour a burrito (at least a burrito, perhaps a quesadilla as a second course) from Anna’s. I know I’ll have Wendy’s at least once and D’Angelo’s at least twice back in Fitchburg. On Thursday night I’m sure I’ll have a burger and several appetizers of the fried food variety at whatever bar I end up at while watching the Bruins game.

Since this is shaping up to be a particularly unhealthy trip, I actually made a grilled chicken sandwich to take to the airport with me in the morning. Maybe eating it on the plane can be my only meal while I travel on Wednesday. But knowing me, I’ll eat the chicken sandwich at 6AM on the way to the airport, grab a croissan’wich & hash browns from Burger King while I wait for my flight, and then get a giant bag of Peanut M&M’s for the plane. I also hear it’s supposed to be 80 degrees in Boston when I land…perfect chocolate milkshake weather.

And let’s be honest…am I really going to wait for my friend to get to Boston on Thursday for my first Anna’s Burrito? No, I’ll be going directly from Logan Airport to their closest location for that sweet, sweet carnitas.

And when I return to LA next week, I’ll feel terrible. I’ll be lethargic for a few days, and I’ll spend extra time in the bathroom. I’ll try to go for a simple two-mile run and wonder why it seems like I’m running with lead shoes on. I’ll be miserable.

But then I’ll cheer up when I realize I’m only two weeks away from my next road trip.