A decadent dessert experience and a birthday present collide to inspire Nashville's first artisan marshmallow company 

The Big Bang

The Big Bang

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, as the saying goes. It's an aphorism often tied to disappointment — but in the case of Sarah Souther, proprietor of the new artisan marshmallow venture Bang Candy Company, the unplanned life that's happening is a welcome surprise.

Primarily an artist (and occasionally a yoga instructor), Souther paints on silk, then fashions garments out of the material, in addition to making custom guitar straps and leather goods. It's safe to say that making and selling artisan marshmallows wasn't in her plans 10 years ago, or even 10 months ago.

"I tried a homemade marshmallow about six months ago," Souther says, "and I thought, 'Wow, fantastic!' Totally different than the one that you buy in the store."

The marshmallow in question was served with the notoriously decadent hot chocolate dessert at Arnold Myint's Cha Chah. That dining experience planted a seed (or perhaps a sugar granule). "I did some research on the Internet and tried making them," Souther says. "And then a friend of mine tried them and she was like, 'Ahh, these are great! Can I have some for my birthday?' "

Not one to deny a friend's birthday request, Souther obliged with a shoebox full of homemade marshmallows. Little did she know that the birthday girl would force-feed them to everyone at the party. "The next day, I had orders for other events."

Soon thereafter, another friend fell under the sway of the marshmallows' sweet, fluffy allure. When that friend's husband, a manager at a large Nashville company, gave them a taste, Souther wound up with an order for 400 boxes for corporate Christmas gifts.

"So I thought I might as well make a company out of it," Souther says. "And I developed all these different flavors, rented a kitchen, and BOOM!"

Actually, "BANG!" would be more accurate. Souther chose the name Bang Candy Company, believe it or not, as an ode to guns. "In my silk paintings, I use guns a lot," she says. "It's a provocative image. And it sounds good."

Of course, the only thing her marshmallows seem to provoke is a chorus of "oohs" and "aahs." After eating one of her rose-cardamom marshmallows, a friend of Souther's said, "It's like swallowing God in velvet pants." (Talk about provocative.)

Souther even claims to have vegetarian and vegan friends eating her product, despite the presence of gelatin, an animal product. "People will throw their beliefs to the side for these marshmallows," she says with a demonic grin. "I'm thrilled. I'm winning them over one at a time."

Most of Bang Candy Company's airy confections are half-dipped in Belgian dark chocolate, though they can also be purchased "naked," as Souther likes to say, for those who want to sass up their hot chocolate. In addition to the rose-cardamom, flavors include chocolate-chili, toasted coconut, vanilla and espresso-praline. (When that last one is naked, it's just espresso.)

So how do they taste? As an outspoken marshmallow detractor — I was nearly disowned by my family over my aversion to s'mores — I was expecting to have to feign a pleasant response. Suffice to say I consumed a box of four in one day, finding them far more appealing than the 'mallows of my youth. The flavors are subtle yet defined, and the dark chocolate dip provides a delightful textural counterpoint.

Bang Candy Company marshmallows are currently available at Fido, The Belcourt, Frothy Monkey, Mitchell Deli and The Dotted Line. Souther also sells them at the Nashville Farmers' Market on Friday and Saturday mornings, and at the West Nashville Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings. Both farmers' market stands sell hot chocolate too, made with the help of local chocolatiers Olive & Sinclair. The marshmallows, larger than the store-bought variety that most people know, sell for between $4 and $5 for a box of 4 and roughly $10 for a box of 12. Bags of 10 naked marshmallows sell for $5.

But what has Souther most excited is the marshmallow and hot chocolate truck she's preparing to launch this week, which she's dubbed The Coco Van (!). "Well, it's not exactly a truck," she says. "It's a log cabin on wheels. Well, on a trailer. And I pull it with my Volvo." (Now that's artisan.) As she joins the recent spate of mobile food purveyors (grilled cheese, pizza, Argentinean sandwiches, to name a few) Souther plans to maximize the cold weather months, taking her trailer to sporting events, music venues and farmers' markets. What could be better on a cold winter's day than a steaming cup of Olive & Sinclair hot chocolate studded with Bang marshmallows?

The website, www.bangcandycompany.com, is still in development, and should be fully functioning within a couple of weeks. You can order larger quantities of marshmallows directly from Souther, and the trailer is available for private parties and events. Contact her at sarah@bangcandycompany.com.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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