One Thousand Scents

Friday, June 13, 2008

30 Demeters in 30 Days: Day 13, Marshmallow

Homemade marshmallows don't seem too hard to make: the usual base for any candy, a boiled-sugar solution, is poured over gelatin and beaten until foamy, then allowed to set. I've made all kinds of candy, but never marshmallows: I've never even eaten any but the store-bought kind.

I have, however, walked past the marshmallow section in the supermarket a thousand times, and it's always the same reaction: a deep inhale, a blissful sigh. The smell of commercial marshmallows is a child's idea of heaven, a huge plume of thick sugary vanilla with a pleasantly dusty overtone (the smell, or at least the presence, of cornstarch, I guess).

That's not, unfortunately, what Demeter Marshmallow smells like. It has a generic cooked-sugar aroma and the barest hint of something slightly burnt, maybe a toasted marshmallow (but there's no campfire to it). I'm willing to concede that commercial marshmallows may not smell like the homemade version, and that Marshmallow is the homemade kind (as I said, I've never had them and therefore don't know what they smell like), but the smell is so blah that I would have preferred the store variety.

It's not terrible, and in fact is mild and pleasant; it's just not what I expected to be in the bottle, because it doesn't have any character, unlike its namesake. If you held a bag of the candy under someone's nose, they'd recognize it instantly--it's an extremely specific and well-defined scent--but if you sprayed the scent on your skin and offered that to them, I'm pretty certain they wouldn't be able to guess what it was. Nothing about it says "Marshmallow!"; it says "Um...candy?"

The website says, "Demeter has captured the essence of the Marshmallow in a scent so light it borders on transparent", and while I'm not too sure about the first half of the statement, I can heartily agree with the second. It has very little staying power; it begins to recede from view within five minutes, is a little drift of vanilla in fifteen, and is all but gone in half an hour.

I don't know if it's such a good idea to be printing the recipe on the bottle. It works fine with the cocktail Demeters, because you just have to throw those together, but the instructions for the recipe say "Boil it up, pour in pan, let stand for 12 hours, cut into squares." Nope. If you boil gelatin, bad things are going to happen, and if you don't beat the mixture, I don't know what you'll get, but it definitely isn't marshmallow. I'm sure it's tongue-in-cheek, but still; misleading and not a good idea.

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