A s’more pie with graham cracker crust, chocolate filling, and toasted marshmallow fluff, inspired by David Oppegaard’s The Firebug of Balrog County.
One of my favorite things about young adult literature is that, when it’s done right, it can be so much more than angsty romance and sparkly stalker vampires. The best YA isn’t just black and white, love and hate melodrama, it’s full of confusing grey areas and conflicting impulses and emotions. Temper that with a bit of dry teenage wit and a bit of dark humor and you have some formative literature on your hands. This is the effect of David Oppegaard’s new book, The Firebug of Balrog County.
After his mother dies of cancer, Mack discovers a metaphorical little bug living in his chest who enjoys the sight of things burning. At first it seems like the only way for Mack to feel something, but when he clicks with a wild-eyed college goth girl named Katrina, she sets a different kind of fire burning in his heart (if you know what I mean). Meanwhile, his grandfather, the mayor, sets out to catch the county’s serial arsonist. Although Mack is torn between the destructive force that feels so good and a burgeoning adult conscience, he can’t resist the opportunity to go after the hay castle they erect on the town green in the fall.
Notes From The Piebrary:
I read an absolute ton of YA for work. That is, basically, my job. It’s a rare treat when something stands out to me as true and heartfelt and I spend a lot of time agonizing over why the confusing teenage emotions of some books are so effective while others come across as whiny angst. Although the thoughts are still simple and only half-formed, Oppegaard brought me a little bit closer to parsing why. There is a truth to Mack’s struggle – not just a heightened, fumbling, misremembered teenage urgency – but a truly adult conflict that struck deep with me. It rings true with me as an adult reader, but its echoes can be felt back to my adolescence.
Well done contemporary YA taps into those uncomfortable moments from the reader’s formative years when a situation or person forced you to make a decision about the kind of adult you wanted to be. Mack has this flippant wit, a truly black sense of humor, and just the right amount of sexual deviancy to catch you attention, but it is his need to appear as though nothing bothers him while his emotions burn their way through his chest that even adult readers can relate to. At some point everyone feels that burning tightness in their chest, the black-spotted dizzy heat behind their eyes; it’s sadness, it’s anger, it burns you out and, eventually, totally numbs you up. Slowly, over time, your synapses and nerve endings heal and the feeling and sensation leaks back into you in strange, beautiful ways.
Parsing This Pie:
Somehow during my adolescence I decided that the way to get a handle on my emotions was to find a constructive outlet. For me, that was baking pie. That being said, there is something really, really satisfying about lighting things on fire.
You could take this pie in any number of ways. Maybe the charred surface hiding rich chocolaty sweetness is a metaphor for Mack’s personality. Perhaps, like this pie, our adult selves are just a composite of our constructive efforts and destructive impulses. Maybe I just wanted to play with my kitchen torch. I’ll let you decide.
-1 cup graham cracker crumbs
-1/2 cup sugar
-5 tbs melted butter
-1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
-1 cup milk chocolate chips
-8 tbs butter
-Tub o’ marshmallow fluff
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
One of the best ways to make this crust is to simply throw all of the ingredients in the food processor. Pulse the graham crackers (about one package) until they’re good and fine and crumbly. Dump in the sugar and melted butter and run that baby until everything is uniformly buttered. It should have a moist (but not damp!) consistency so that you can press it into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Fork the graham cracker crust a few times to ventilate and blind bake it for 10 minutes.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, this can either be done on the stove using a double boiler (which will make it smoother) or in the microwave (which will make it easier). Set the melted chocolate aside. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the eggs until they are good and fluffy. Combine the fluffy eggs and melted chocolate and beat together. Fill the waiting pie crust and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until the custard puffs up (it will settle again).
Once cooled, spread as much fluff as you would like on top (you can do the whole pie at once or in individual slices) and light that shit on fire. Using a kitchen torch, move back and forth browning the marshmallow fluff. Maybe you prefer your marshes lightly toasted, maybe you like your mallows thoroughly blackened, either way, you cannot simply leave the marshmallows untoasted, it is sacrilege.
This is the perfect pie for end of the summer barbecues or fall bonfires. Serve warm or cold with apple cider!