Last week, as I was walking to my office, the air felt crisp. My office itself was colder than usual. I had to put my sweater around my legs to keep warm.
There’s no mistaking it, Fall is upon us, and my long ago Summer Picnic feels long ago. The last hurrah of Summer.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t sorry to see it go.
I was ready to move forward, and into some much needed rest. And, yet, as the end of summer drew nearer I was suddenly and unexpectedly nostalgic.
Labor Day weekend, I found myself reading a book that I probably should have read for the first time twenty years ago, Judy Blume’s Forever.
And, well, this quote:
“It’s funny, the way you get to know summer friends so well in a short period of time, especially at camp, when you are thrown together morning, noon, and night.”
That was all it took. And suddenly, I was remembering the summers of my childhood at camp. Or, more specifically of those end of the summer nights when the upstate air was cold as we sat around the lake, clinging to each other for warmth, getting ready to say goodbye. This was before we were all online at all times, when the head counselors would read sports scores from last night’s major league baseball games at flag pole. When saying goodbye meant staying in touch with letters or simply with the tacit understanding that we would see each other at the same place next year.
I’ve tried to explain the experience and, somehow, always fall short.
How can I not?
The details sound unimpressive—or even strange without the right context. I could tell you about how the entire camp dressed in white on Fridays for the Sabbath or how on the last night of the season, we floated candles on Sylvan Lake, making wishes and plans for the following year. Or, I could tell you about being younger, and looking forward to the night where my division would have a campfire and we’d gather sticks to roast marshmallows for our very own s’mores.
I think I’ll stop there—at least that last one seems to be more universal. And, ultimately, I wasn’t nostalgic for the place so much as the feeling—of being on the cusp of things. Over the summers of my childhood it was the promise of fall and new books and fresh starts in the school year. Now? The days are getting busier and shorter and colder. And, I find myself wanting to hold on the lazy luxury of the summers of my youth in whatever ways I can.
I don’t have access to a camp fire—and, given that I live in an apartment in Manhattan, that’s a good thing. So, this is the indoor version of the summer standby. The good news is that, when the weather gets cold, and I’m feeling wistful and nostalgic, s’mores are no longer so hard to come by—stick not included.
Recipe courtesy from Seriouseats.com
Making everything from scratch is not a requirement (and, some may say you’re crazy to do so). However, I’ve included links to the recipes for graham crackers and marshmallows, should you be so inclined. It’s worth the effort.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (made from 10 rectangular crackers)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups Marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut two 16-inch pieces of foil and line an 8-inch square baking pan, allowing excess to hang over sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Break graham crackers into small pieces and pulse in food processor until they become fine crumbs. Melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to crumbs and pulse to combine. Press into bottom of prepared pan.
Melt chocolate and remaining 8 tablespoons butter in medium bowl in microwave, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping every 20 seconds to stir with rubber spatula. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
With a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, espresso powder, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with moist crumbs attached. Do not over-bake.
Transfer to cooling rack and top with marshmallows.
Adjust oven rack to upper third position and heat broiler. Broil until marshmallows are golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Cool in pan 1 hour. Using foil sling, transfer directly to wire rack and let cool completely, at least 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Makes 16 2-by-2-inch bars
Photos courtesy of Michael Landry