The Mallomar

Those not in the know, call a Mallomar a "cookie." They don't understand.
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Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

Those not in the know, call a Mallomar a "cookie." They don't understand. "Cookie" is not a descriptive word for a Mallomar. If you've never experienced a Mallomar, they can make your eyes roll back in your head with pleasure, and it doesn't even involve sex. Mallomars are delectable, delicious, divine dumplings of desire. Those not in the know may easily say the Mallomar is just a cookie, but that's like saying Fred Astaire was just a dancer.

For the Uninitiated: Seek out the double box with the shiny yellow wrapper displaying a picture of the contents on the outside. Die-hard Mallomar fans have been known to suck on this image to relieve tension, as they claw at the box like a toddler unwrapping a Christmas gift.

Made since 1913 by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) in a single Pennsylvania bakery, Mallomars have a thick layer of rounded, smooth marshmallow on a circular Graham cracker base, all draped in pure dark chocolate. Because of the manner in which the chocolate is poured over the marshmallow and Graham cracker and, to make it the ultimate comfort food, there's a nipple on top.

An enormously appealing quality about the chocolate coating is its distinctive initial crackle. It's imperative that the exterior of the Mallomar itself is not cracked when the box is opened, or the crunch is deflected and becomes merely a thwarted thud. You see, a Mallomar's chocolate exterior is more of a crust than a coating. Or even more accurate would be the word "mantle." It has a noble mantle of chocolate.

The history of a Mallomar's ingredients ignite the imagination almost as much as their combined ingredients tantalize the palate.

CHOCOLATE. Few foods cause such a passionate reaction at the mention of their name as does chocolate. That's all you have to say to see that glazed look in someone's eyes, a look usually reserved for lovers. Just the word "chocolate" evokes rolling waves of warm and comforting feelings that transcend age, gender, and time itself. Chocolate existed long before the Hershey family ever wrapped their kisses in silver foil, before England's Cadbury made the first edible chocolate bar in 1847, and even before the Three Wise Men trekked across the desert with gifts.

Scientists have recently discovered residues of cocoa, the basis for chocolate, in pots dating to 900 B.C. and perhaps even earlier. In all probability, the first chocoholics were the Mayans. The latest data supporting the Mayans obsession with chocolate comes from ceramic vessels found at an archaeological site in Central America, suggesting that liquid chocolate may have been poured back and forth from jug to jug to produce the froth that was considered by the Maya and the Aztecs to be the best part of a chocolate drink. It's easier to quit booze, smoking and caffeine, than never having another taste of chocolate. Chocolate has frequently been given a bad rap, like it causes acne, heart problems and tooth rot. Not so. If you've got zits, it's probably the fault of the Zit Lobbyists in Washington. The University of Pennsylvania could find no correlation between chocolate and acne. Regarding bad teeth, one of the ingredients in chocolate (cocoa butter) might even prevent tooth decay by protectively coating the teeth. As to heart problems, University of California, Davis, has found that chocolate carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower the risk of heart disease.

MARSHMALLOW. An equally crucial component to the Mallomar is marshmallow. Where does this word come from? A mallow is a type of shrub whose cousins are hibiscus, okra, and cotton. Okay, that's the second half of the word. The first half is where the mallow grows. In a marsh. A confection is made from the root of the marsh mallow. The mallow was first found in an Olde English medical book written about 1000 A.D. and it was spelled merscmealwe. Kind of a shame that Jesus never got to eat a Mallomar.

GRAHAM CRACKERS. For the round base of the Mallomar, we can thank an early 19th-Century Presbyterian clergyman named Sylvester Graham. Born in Connecticut in 1794, Graham studied at Amherst and was ordained to the ministry when he was in his early 30s. That may be why some Mallomar zealots actually hear the celestial choir upon first bite. An ardent advocate of the temperance movement, the Reverend Mr. Graham believed his vegetarian diet could cure alcoholism, eliminate impure thoughts, and stifle sexual urges. Maybe that works if you only eat the Graham cracker by itself, but not an integrated Mallomar.

HOW TO EAT A MALLOMAR. For the impatient Mallomar fanatic, a fast bite of all three parts simultaneously results in a rush of integrated flavors flooding the taste buds for a quick thrill, necessitating a second Mallomar immediately. This can cause an addiction for which the Betty Ford Center has no known remedy. For the discerning fanatic, a slow embrace between teeth and chocolate is the preferred method of enjoyment. First, the sound triggers one's imagination. Is it the sound of you as a child with boots cracking the layer of ice over snow on a wintry morning, or the click of high heels on a cement floor, or Michelangelo's chisel seducing David out of a block of marble? Then comes the texture -- rich, dark, sensual. If Denzel Washington were a food, he'd be that. The succulent marshmallow can either be allowed to slowly melt in one's mouth, or squished sweetly and tantalizingly between one's tongue and the roof of one's mouth. Or squished between the teeth by the tongue, if nobody is watching. For Actor's Studio method eaters, there are at least three wondrous ways to enjoy a Mallomar. Eater number one enjoys the Mallomar in three to four bites and it's gone forever; Eater number two separates the Graham cracker base and eats that first, followed by the remaining chocolate-covered marshmallow which can be eaten either right-side up or down. Some enjoy the crackling sound more if it's made with the bottom teeth. Eater number three is the highest Mallomar aficionado -- He can get the marshmallow out of the chocolate without denting it. This takes years of practice.

Back in the 70s when the then-world's #1 tennis player, Ilie Nastase, said of upcoming Superstar, Bjorn Borg, "We are playing tennis. He is playing something else." A cookie aisle is full of cookies; a Mallomar is something else.