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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so I thought it would be fun to share a holiday-related word. Get ready, because it’s a doozy! Today’s Weird Word is:

Marshmallows are often used in holiday baking and cooking

Don’t choke on your turkey – it’s just the botanical term for marshmallow. Before I get off track, Althea officinalis comes from the Greek word althein, “to heal.”

Way back when, juice from the roots of the actual Marsh Mallow plant were cooked with egg whites and sugar. The resulting gelatinous mixture was then whipped and set to harden, making a candy that eased the pain of sore throats.

The marshmallows we eat now don’t contain any Marsh Mallow at all. They’re basically sugar, syrup and chemicals. But don’t tell my grandma that!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

When Thanksgiving rolled around, she went all out – turkey, stuffing, cranberries, brown-and-serve buns with butter, apple pie, pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, and my all-time unfavorite, canned yams with browned marshmallows on top.

Can you say ack? Ack, ack, ack! 

Every time that dish rolled around, I fought the gag reflex. Something about the squishiness of the yams combined with the fake puffy sweetness of the toasted marshmallows just set me off.

And sure enough, one of my uncles would “conveniently” pass the dish around one last time and make sure he set it right in front of my plate, where it would torment me the entire meal. Was that a marshmallow winking maliciously at me??

s'mores are a fun summertime treatEven now, I’m not a fan of Althea officinalis. When summertime rolls around and we make s’mores, I omit the marshmallows, virtuously calling them “Diet S’mores” and eating myself silly on chocolate. And when people toast their marshmallows long enough for them to turn black, it’s the Thanksgiving Gag Reflex all over again for me.

I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving – may your day be filled with family and food, and an abundance of health and good cheer. Just skip the marshmallows, please.

For those of you who thrive on Althea officinalis’s squishy softness, here’s the recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole.