Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fluff: My Guilty Pleasure

It’s a special day and the 51st post on my blog. So today I am going to take a detour from the road to greenness to let you in on a guilty pleasure, my love of a local product meant to be eaten, but not quite a food — Marshmallow Fluff.

Anyone who was a kid in the Boston area in the ‘50s is familiar with “Fluff,” even if a jar of it was not perpetually in residence on their own kitchen counter. Fluff is a delicious, pure white confection, whipped in small batches — kosher by the way. It has been manufactured by the Durkee-Mower Company in Lynn, Massachusetts since 1920, when two local WWI veterans, H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower, formed a partnership. The two pooled their savings to purchase the Fluff formula from its inventor, who had been forced to cease production during the war. The partners made Fluff in their kitchen at night and sold it door to door in the daytime. In 1929 they moved their operation to a factory with 10 employees.

Durkee-Mower was one of the first companies to promote a product on the radio - via its own "Flufferettes" weekly 15 minute variety program. In the show’s jingle, the Flufferettes sang the recipe for the most common use of Fluff, the “Fluffernutter,” a sandwich consisting of two slices of white bread smeared generously with peanut butter and Fluff. The show and the product survived the depression. The company fell victim to war-time rationing in the early 1940s, but enjoyed a period of rapid expansion in the post-war boom when us boomers downed Fluff by the jar.

As the company sought new uses for its product, Fluff was promoted as an ingredient for never-fail fudge and other recipes, but its most common use was still in the Fluffernutter. Many a little kid rushed home to eat a Fluffernutter at lunchtime (yes, we went home for lunch in those days), and many a big kid toted a sackful of them to high school. There were, however, none at my house, where peanut butter was paired with the jelly my mom and the aunties made from the Concord grapes which grew on my grandfather’s grape arbor, and Fluff was considered too sweet to be a sandwich ingredient.

So, why the love? In 1966, Durkee-Mower and Kellogg’s co-promoted a recipe for a "Marshmallow Treat" © recipe utilizing Rice Krispies ® cereal product and Marshmallow Fluff. They were so easy to make, so crispy… a comfort food that could be whipped up in a moment at a moment’s notice, no matter what the weather. All you needed to keep on hand were three ingredients: Fluff, Rice Krispies, and margarine (or butter). You can get the recipe here from the online version of the Yummy Book. In my house of 5 kids these treats were made often, but rarely consumed. They became the quick fix bake sale item when one of the 5 forgot to inform Mom of the need until the night before. Sometimes we were lucky to lick the wooden spoon. Perhaps that is why I craved them then and crave them still.

For a couple of decades, I forgot about Fluff and Marshmallow Treats. But then I had a kid of my own and eventually he was old enough to need an introduction. I couldn’t find Fluff at first. I used standard marshmallows as a substitute, and then blue started to appear as an ingredient. Finally, I found Fluff. I have kept some in my cupboard ever since.

I know this love breaks a number of Michael Pollan’s rules (in Food Rules) including:

Food Rules: An Eater's ManualRule #2: Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. Since Fluff was invented in 1917, it is doubtful that any of the great-grandmothers used it as an ingredient.

Rule #5: Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.Two of the first three ingredients are corn syrup (albeit not HFCS) and sugar.

Rule #11: Avoid foods you see advertised on television. Fluff was advertised on the radio and is now advertised on TV. (You can hear the jingle and watch the video here.)

But, on the plus side, there are only four ingredients, and only one is artificial—vanillin. There are no artificial colors or preservatives. And the factory is only 149 miles away, so I am shopping locally using the definition of 150 miles. Also, Durkee-Mower has long been promoting its glass jar as a way to store leftovers in the refrigerator.

And finally, Rule #39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. Making Krispie Treats is almost cooking.

So, there, I’ve said it. I have confessed love for a product with 0 fat, 0 sodium, 40 calories and no food value beyond its 10 carbohydrates a serving. And I can’t deny that I pick and choose my rules sometimes. BUSTED.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my trip down memory lane. It’s a special day. It’s my blog. And I can write about Fluff if I want to. Join me next time when I return to my road to greenness.

1 comment:

  1. Since 2006, Somerville has been hosting a"Fluff Fest" in Union Sq., where Fluff was first made in 1917, even reviving the Flufferettes. The next one will be this coming September. You can check out photos & reports on past Fluff Fests here: http://www.unionsquaremain.org/committees/Special%20Events/fluff%20alt.html

    Also, another great use for Fluff around our house was as a topping-- for hot chocolate (one generous Tablespoon floating on the top does the trick) & for hot fudge sundaes (put the Fluff on top of the ice cream, then smother with hot fudge, which will melt Fluff & create a lip-smacking mess). Mmmmmmm-- time for breakfast... ;-)