Time is biggest gift of all

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 2010

Water, sugar and gelatin — that is all it takes to make those bite-sized jet-puffed concoctions called marshmallows.

As a kid, I thought marshmallows were the product of the astronauts. After all the Stay Puft Marshmallow man looks like those astronauts floating through space on jet packs.

Not ever having seen them being made, I had always considered those white confections to be the result of some space-age, complicated process.

Email newsletter signup

Turns out the Egyptians made marshmallows long before man set foot on the moon. It also turns out they are simple to make too.

At least that is what the recipe said when it appeared on the screen two weeks ago.

Looking for a gift to make friends and family this holiday, I reached for my computer to do a quick Internet search for simple and easy Christmas goodies to make.

You can imagine my surprise when marshmallows sat near the top of the list. Intrigued, I clicked on the link to find out how simple the recipe could be.

It doesn’t take much, just three kinds of sugar — granulated, powdered and corn syrup — water, a little gelatin and some vanilla for flavor. With a standing mixer and a candy thermometer, marshmallows are literally whipped up in a matter of 20 minutes.

Isn’t that the way most things we get at the grocery store are these days? After all, bread is just water, flour, salt and yeast. Peanut butter is just chopped nuts and oil. Butter is only churned up milk.

Simple ingredients turned into simple foods. Of course, the biggest ingredient in all of those aforementioned foods is time. Bread takes time to rise. Butter takes time to churn.

Reeling from six months of basic training in fatherhood last Christmas, I discovered how valuable time is last year. With all that is involved with caring and nurturing your child, combined with time commitments at work, church and community, any time for personal pursuits suddenly drops to nothing.

Time seems to pass by at an exponential rate as you watch your child grow from this tiny helpless being into a walking, talking child in a blink of an eye — like watching one of those photo flipbooks of your child’s life.

Even before becoming a father, I regularly gave in to the hustle and the bustle each Christmas and hurriedly bought gifts for friends and family to save time rather than savor it.

Last year, I gave in to all of the demands of fatherhood and told everyone, including my mother, not to expect much for Christmas. As a result, the holiday felt less like a celebration and more like something to slog through.

“Next year will be different,” I promised myself last year.

So this year, I decided to not only spend the time making gifts for others, but also give myself the time to enjoy the season and celebrate the holidays with others.

That is why I decided to give marshmallow making a try two weeks ago. With a candy thermometer in one hand and a spatula in the other, I watched as the mixer whipped these simple ingredients into something sweet, airy and chewy.

I poured the marshmallow batter in the pan, let it set for 4 hours, cut it into squares and tossed the morsels into a mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch. I covered them with chocolate and served them on a plate.

The smiles on the face of my family confirmed what I had discovered last year: Giving of yourself and your most valuable resource — time — is the best gift of all.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601445-3540 or at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.