Sweet Tooth & Disappearing Marshmallow Puffs
Sweet Tooth is about deception. A simple enough plot about a spy in Cold War England, the novel is layered with ideas about the different ways people deceive one another. Serena Frome is a college graduate who begins working for the government and is eventually recruited to take part in a secret operation that focuses on cultural warfare against communist ideals. Young and a bit naïve, Serena falls for the subject of her very first case, and attempts to balance the vulnerability that young love brings with the deceit her job demands.
While the plot seems straightforward, Ian McEwan's staggering understanding of human nature gives the story layers of raw intimacy. As the novels expands, we see how deception and lies have seeped into every facet of Serena’s life, and how that reflects the government’s own strategy to keep the public sated with a false sense of security. Serena must lie to her family and lover about the true nature of her career, and to her supervisors about her relationship with her target. Soon, however, she seems to be deceiving even herself, as she deals with the daily repercussions of a country at war while steadfastly believing the government’s claims that everything is fine.
Another level of unreality is delivered through the story’s novel within a novel structure. Serena appeals to readers because she is a devoted one herself, and we can see the way literature shapes her opinions on various topics. In turn, her mission involves funding up-and-coming authors who, while not strictly anti-communist, write with an attitude that is “skeptical about utopias in the East or looming catastrophe in the West.” In a war largely driven by propaganda and public opinion, the British government is clearly aware of the power of popular literature in influencing a nation. As Serena reads through short stories looking for promising new writers, the audience reads alongside her. Each short story, though generally allegoric, takes us out of Serena’s reality into the worlds constructed by the authors she reads. Literature is thus shown to be a form of deception as well, the way the characters use it to express their hidden truths and to escape from the realities they have made for themselves.
McEwan artfully constructs the novel to read as a slow burn, a patient building of suspense and intrigue rather than the abrupt or violent explosions we often associate with novels that center around illicit romances and eras of warfare. It reads at a leisurely pace while subtly drawing the reader in to distill the truths from the web of lies each character gradually builds. Sweet Tooth is a novel I recommend reading many times over, as each reread yields new truths and deeper understanding of each brilliantly constructed character.
Because of the focus on tricks played and lies told, I decided to try my hand at "disappearing marshmallow puffs." A simple-to-create dessert that will tempt every sweet tooth, this recipe has an added element of surprise that makes baking and eating them an adventurous experience. The tricky aspect of this recipe is that the marshmallows slyly disappear upon baking. Like the way the truth is so often obscured in Sweet Tooth, the marshmallows in this recipe are hidden away beneath pastry and baked until finally, they cease to exist in the same way they started.
DISAPPEARING MARSHMALLOW PUFFS
- 1 tube pastry dough (or crescent rolls)
- 4 tablespoons butter (melted)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 8 large marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Melt the butter, place in a small bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar evenly in another small bowl. Grease an 8x12" baking pan.
Spread out the dough and cut into 8 squares. Arrange the squares onto the baking pan.
Dip a marshmallow into the melted butter, covering all sides.
Roll the marshmallow in the cinnamon sugar, coating all sides evenly. Feel free to layer it on, as this is where the sweetness comes in.
Place the marshmallow on one of the eight squares of dough.
Proceed to fold the dough up and around the marshmallow. It helps to have a bit of the melted butter on your fingers to seal up every edge of dough and avoid any creases or gaps.
Repeat for each of the remaining marshmallows.
Sprinkle a bit of melted butter and cinnamon sugar on top of the buns, sparingly.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. The rolls will expand and turn a golden brown on the edges.
After taking the puffs out of the oven, let cool for a few minutes. Then, open up or take a bite of a puff to find that the marshmallow has disappeared!
Source: I bought this book from Barnes and Noble.