Last week, Mappy Hour NYC joined local National Park Rangers for a night of campfires, singing and s’mores on the beach. Along with eating this delicious dessert, we also got to learn about its origins.
The history of our favorite campfire dessert can be traced to the invention and subsequent evolution of the three ingredients: graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. Read on (or watch the video at the end) to be transported to Ancient Egypt, 19th century France, or a U.S. Hershey’s factory as the s’more slowly made its way to our 21st century campfires.
The sap of the mallow plant, which often grows in marshes, was originally used in Ancient Egypt for it’s healing properties. In the Middle Ages, the roots of the marsh mallow were used to create candies and in the 19th century the French began to mass produce the marshmallow in a version similar to what we know today.
The Graham Cracker
Have you heard of Reverend Sylvester Graham? He was a 19th century Presbyterian reverend who was part of the American Temperance Movement. Along with being a staunch vegetarian, Graham also invented the Graham cracker in 1929 which, was sugarless and quite bland in its original form. He believed that diet could help his acolytes suppress carnal urges.
The origins of chocolate lie in Mesoamerica where indigenous populations roasted and ground the beans to create chocolate drink. When Cortez and the Spanish conquered the Aztecs they took cacao beans with them believing, rightly, that there was a market in Europe for the fruit. While Europeans did enjoy chocolate in its liquid form, it was only available to the aristocracy.
The industrial revolution allowed for the mass production of chocolate bars, with the first wrapped bar being produced by good ol’ Hershey in 1900. From then, chocolate became a consumer good available to the rest of us.
The winning combination
While other marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker combinations did exist in the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1927 that the recipe for the campfire classic was first shared. The “Some More” was laid out in a Girl Scouts manual and authored by Loretta Scott Crew. Over the year’s, the name was shortened to s’more but the ingredients and connection to the great outdoors remained.
In 2015, the USDA recommended that a healthier version of the s’more would include strawberries and yogurt instead of chocolate and marshmallows. We’re not sure anyone followed that recommendation.