Is marshmallow a collective noun like sheep? Should I talk about marshmallow or marshmallows? These questions ran through my head as I made my way over to meet Laura, the founder of Mello Mallo and my new friend for the afternoon. A quick internet check tells me not to follow my gut feeling and talk about marshmallows (plural) instead. Good work Google, looking like a knob is averted.
And so to business, have you ever tried to make marshmallows? No, of course not. You need a factory and a marshmallow-making-machine of some kind surely? No point even trying because it's going to be super hard and they almost certainly need to contain a list of chemicals longer than your arm. Right? I bet you haven't attempted candyfloss either have you? Exactly.
Before I met Laura, I couldn't think of a single person who had the time or inclination to hand-make marshmallows. They just seem so difficult, so manufactured that the only way to even approach such pillowey lovelyness is in a massive industrial unit, with hundreds of chemicals and a very low moral standard. However, the interwebs are littered with recipes for them and the more I eat Mello Mallo's white chocolate and raspberry cubes of sweet cloud-like foamy pleasure, the more I can't believe how lucky I am.
I mean look at those layers people!! How can you do layers in marshmallow without witchcraft of some kind??!!
I met Laura for a cup of tea and a chat about her business in a little tea shop in Ampthill* and within the first two minutes she had pointed out that they stock the same tea as she uses in her own tea-infused flavour creations.Needless to say from that point on, there was only one blend I should order:
So, with a pot of Lost Malawi in front of me an a truly mammoth slice of carrot cake to the side, we sat and talked Mello Mallo. Laura is an interesting character who by her own description looks at the world slightly differently, and that is a good thing. Having moved from job to job she realised that she needed to make something herself. She set herself on a path to creating a product that she could own and be in control of and like any self-respecting nurse-turned-teacher-turned-chef-turned-entrepreneur she looked around and saw the gleam of an idea in the most unlikely of places. After talking to Laura for the afternoon, it soon became very clear that Mello Mallo was born out of a drive to be different, to give the world another view of something that doesn't have to be supermarket standard and why not? Tell me the last time you ate a hand-made marshmallow?
Laura chooses everything to do with her confection for a reason, take the tea for example. We discussed this tea for approximately 20 minutes, not because we are both enormously interested in tea, but because sourcing this particular tea, from that particular company (the Rare Tea Company for those who are interested) is important. It's important for those of us who discerningly choose to eat it, those who ethically source it and those who have the opportunity to fairly grow and sell it. Laura chose that tea, not just for it's flavour but also for the opportunities and story that it gave to all the people who are then able to say they were a part of the product. And it doesn't stop with tea, what about the lime and coconut? The mint choc chip, our favourite: white chocolate and raspberry, or any of the other flavour inventions that come out of Laura's imagination? They are all created, constructed or, I suspect, enchanted into being with exactly the same care and attention.
Clearly Mello Mallo isn't just about marshmallows, although delicious and moorish they may be. It's about caring for everything in your life to the same level that Laura cares about hers. Every moment is hard fought for so why waste time doing things you don't love?
I like to cook, I think that's something we can all agree on. But more than that, I like to eat and maybe, just maybe if I practice enough, I could produce something as soft and beautiful as these but you know what? I don't want to. I would rather just thank my lucky stars that the world has people like Laura in it to make them for me and as she likes to say:
Money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you marshmallows, which is almost the same thing.
So if and when you see Laura standing behind her Mello Mallo sign at any of the food related fairs that she attends, go up and say hello. She always has a few samples that you can try and if you taste her handmade, home cooked and love filled marshmallows you'll immediately buy a pack of three to take away with you. I did, and I've been doing it ever since.
*Cakestand and Crumb - really nice with a ridiculous selection of teas and cakes.
Photos courtesy of MelloMallo