Since You Asked

   Well, Butterscotch, Brisket, I had intended to go back to talking about postcards I have sitting around, but I have had a few questions about some topics I glossed over in the last column, and they were interesting enough to make me go out and run down the information.

    Rice Krispies hit store shelves in 1923, and Rice Krispies Marshmallow Squares came along fifteen years later.  We will not be discussing the whole history of Snap, Crackle, and Pop, who were just words in a radio commercial until about 1933, and went on to world fame.  And we are NOT going to discuss Nestle’s Crunch and other items which have crisped rice in them.  Kellogg’s is not paying me to become the world’s fount of wisdom about…no, we will NOT be discussing fried rice!

    Back to the marshmallow squares, or RKTs, or whatever they called them when you were growing up.  Something similar had been in cookbooks since 1918 as Puffed Rice Brittle, or Puffed Wheat Squares.  You took the cereal, added sugar, molasses, vinegar, and butter, and mixed ‘em up.  Remember, though, that there was a product called a Slanket before the Snuggie came along and wiped it off the map.

    In 1939, a Kellogg’s employee and Camp Fire Girl leader named Marjorie Day was looking around for something her troop of girls could make and sell as a fundraiser.  At this point, Camp Fire Girls tended to sell packages of Campfire Marshmallows.  Feeling this made life easier—marshmallows were less sticky to work with than molasses, she said—she dropped the sugar, molasses, and vinegar mixture from the recipe, and used Rice Krispies both from company loyalty and because she figured customer in Michigan would feel te same way about Kellogg’s.

    The world was never the same again.

    People had no trouble at all buying as many of the squares as the troop could make, and word spread, so that just two years later, Kellogg’s started printing the recipe on the box.  For reasons which have not been explained to me, it was not until 1995 that they returned to the original concept and began selling pre-packaged Rice Krispies treats, which are so omnipresent in stores that the modern generation may not know at all that we used to have to make these ourselves.

    They certainly taught me one of the basics of kitchen work when I was a kid: nothing is ever as simple as the recipe would have you believe.  Marshmallows take FOREVER to melt (especially when you’re nine years old) and the muscle power required to drag a wooden spoon through a pan of melting marshmallows and cereal would probably propel a child to a career in the NFL or WWE.  I DO believe the homemade squares taste better than the packaged ones, but that’s what ALL ancient, decrepit people say.

    Since you asked for my opinion (you’ve read this far, haven’t you?), I also do not approve of any of these IMPROVED recipes for the Treats.  Some of these begin by switching out cereals.  Froot Loops Treats are just not the same, believe me, and some creepy mad scientist actually produced a recipe combining two the great cereal snacks with a Chex Mix Marshmallow Square.  I’d just as soon go buy Cracker Jacks, if you don’t mind.

   And I understand, honestly I do, the impulse to toss in chocolate chips, or a bunch of peanuts, or a scoop of peanut butter.  I promise you, I do not judge you if you like Rice Krispies Squares which have been dipped in chocolate or forsted with strawberry jelly.  But surely you realize you need to go back to the purity of the original, after you’ve had your fling.  (I did now someone who liked to mash up Rice Krispies Treats in a bowl and pour milk on them.  HER I’m willing to judge.)

    By the way, at my house, we used the same pot for Rice Krispie Treats that we used to make my mother’s macaroni and cheese, the recipe for which took some…ah, I’ve reached my limit of words for one column.  Maybe some other blog.

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