As latchkey kids, my brother and I were always looking for some novel after-school nosh. Our lunches were the same every day - white bread and mayonnaise with one paper thin slice of prepackaged "turkey" and american cheese, a package of some Frito-Lay lunch size bag of chips from the variety pack, a carton of milk and an apple. After school, we were starving and since mom had gone back to work we were free to raid the pantry for something to tide us over until she could get home and make dinner.
At first, the cookie jar was always stocked, but after about a month of working full time, Mom couldn't muster the energy to keep that up. No problem, we had granola bars and tons of fruit. My cool older brother was sick of healthy snacks, though, so he put his thinking cap on.
Before Dad moved out, one of our favorite summertime adventures was camping in our pop-up trailer. We would drive to Central Oregon, find an isolated spot and set up for the weekend. Fishing, hiking, and wearing chicken-pox-like spots of Calamine lotion to cover the mosquito bites were all part of the fun. Oh, and making s'mores over a campfire.
One afternoon as we headed straight for the kitchen after school, my brother shoved a bar stool over to the pantry and climbed on.
"What are you doing? There's nothing up there but camping food." I watched with rapt attention. My brother was sometimes a little nuts, but mostly he was absolutely brilliant. I knew something good was coming.
"Yup, you're right, Kar," came the muffled voice as his head disappeared into the cupboard. When he emerged, a smug look occupied his face and he leaped off the stool, arms cradling a package of marshmallows and some Hershey bars.
He reached out and grabbed a box of graham crackers to complete the setup and sauntered over to the microwave. This being the 1970s, our microwave was more of a megawave - one of the first models that had a turn-crank on/off switch and a capacity nearly large enough to fit our five-year-old sister inside.
"What the heck?" I laughed as he tore into the Jet Puff package.
"You can't melt the chocolate unless the marshmallows are warm, dork!"
I stood frozen as he set a marshmallow inside the microwave. Just before he clicked the door closed, he thought better of it and decided to put a plate underneath it. Turning the dial, he set the microwave for one minute (way too long, but it wasn't exactly simple to set it with precision) and let 'er rip.
"Whoa! You've gotta come see this! It's so radical!" I jerked to attention and tripped over to where he was standing, peering in through the window in the microwave door. The marshmallow was growing. It was puffing up like an air mattress.
"Stop it!" I yelled dramatically. He jerked the door open and the marshmallow immediately began to deflate. He laid a graham cracker square down on the counter, covered it with four rectangles of Hershey's chocolate and pulled out the plate from the microwave. Burning his fingers, he yelped as he pulled it off the plate and set it on top of the chocolate. I put the final graham cracker on top while he blew on his fingers, then watched the melty smoothness ooze out from between the crackers, my stomach growling.
We must have made half a dozen of these, devouring them like castaways on a desert island. I knew he was a genius. I was sticking with my brother from now on! Of course, as these things go, once we were sick to our stomachs from the volume of sugar we had just ingested, we decided it would be cool to see just how big one of those marshmallows could get in the microwave. We set one inside, as close to the middle as we could approximate, set the dial for two minutes and shut the heavy door. Our heads rested together as we watched through the window. Bigger, bigger, bigger it grew. We held our breath, each wondering if it would touch the sides or the top of the oven and then PFFFFT - it blew. Stalactites of sugary goo stretched down from the roof, hardening almost instantly. Chris fell on the floor, holding his sides and shrieking in laughter. My face burned - what had we done? We could never clean this up - we'd be in so much trouble!
"That was awesome! Did you see that explode? Wait 'til I tell all the guys at school!"
I flung open the door and watched as the slight breeze it created deflated the last few poofy bits and hardened them into icicles of crazy glue. Life was never dull with my brother...