Smoking and Writing

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

June 21, 2014

Recipes From the RanchSmoking cigarettes or pipes are no longer vogue for writers. And, there was a time in history when writers didn’t smoke: take Homer for instance, who lived pre-tabacco. Of course, he was probably cranking pages with chisel and rock and couldn’t hold a pipe properly.

But there was also a time when writers smoked as prolifically as they typed. Some informal thoughts link smoking to creativity; others to boredom in between re-writes; and others claim it calms ADHD. You’ll find nothing formal here, just an observation from me and one by Mark Twain. Mr. Twain, first:

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

For a short spell during summer, the year I hung out with my cousin T., we roped, rode horses and chewed tobacco. We even rode our horses to the country gas station and bought  a can of Skoal despite being only 12 and 10-years-old. My first romantic kiss was with a cowboy who tipped back his hat and shared his lip full of chaw with me.

I never mastered spitting and I never did see that cowboy again. Probably a good thing. And no one ever offered me a cigarette. So I never smoked. I never had to learn what it was to quit a thousand times.

Yet, there are smokers in my life whom I love. I refuse to lecture or give them gruesome tales of their future demise. I grew up in a shame-based family and I’m not about to dose it on others. They go to movies–they see the advertisements and the curl on the lip of the passerby when they light up in their designated areas.

What I learned from the smokers in my life is that smokers readily share stories and camaraderie. I once traveled cross-country from Minnesoto to NYC and back by train with a smoker. Our conductor smoked too, so she promised to knock on our room when we were stopping long enough to light up. I went too, despite hands in pockets. I just listened.

So one day, I decided to smoke, too. I went to designated smoking areas and lit up. It’s nice to smoke–you get a break, time to chill and unwind. Non-smokers never get that, always uptight and working on the clock. Smoking lets you light something on fire and watch slowly as it chars. It’s like meditation.

Of course, I don’t smoke cigarettes. I’ve got too much of a sweet tooth for tobac so bitter. I smoke marshmallows. Seriously, I do. I’ve always favored S’Mores, so when I took up the habit Jiffy Puff became my brand of choice.

Smoking & DrinkingIn the first months of quitting my career to write along the south shore of Lake Superior, I posted this photo which I entitled, ‘Smoking and Drinking.” The drink of choice at the time was San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water.

It’s true that such vices are gateways. I now drink Presecco when I can afford it, but I’ve been known to drink Brut champagne when I can’t. I’m hooked on the bubbles. For a while I was smoking the huge marshmallows, but I cut back to the originals.

Now truly I set out to post something worthwhile tonight. But after having a rough day I sat out on the porch to smoke and it reminded me that Australians have been deprived of S’Mores.

Therefore, in enlightenment of my friends down under, this Recipe From the Ranch involves smoking marshmallows. Of course, you don’t have to go full out flames and charcoal. You can daintily toast your marshmallow inches from the flame and let it slowly brown.

That’s what the Hub does, but then again, the Hub gets his smoke fix from a cherrywood pipe.

You can also microwave a marshmallow for 10 to 15 seconds, but that just seems weird. Kind of like, lighting up a Marlborough in the nuker.

The following recipe is courtesy of Hershey’s. Stateside they must sell a ton of bars during the camping season. No child in America goes camping or out to the backyard fire pit without the plea for “some more” marshmallows and chocolate.

Hershey’s S’Mores in Three Acts

1. Top two graham cracker squares each with one chocolate bar half.

SMores (2)

2. Light up two marshmallows on a long metal skewer until the flame dies out and marshmallows are crusty black. Or toast alongside the fire until barely brown.

SMores (3)

3. Carefully slide one marshmallow onto each chocolate-top graham cracker square and top with a second cracker.

SMores (4)

Enjoy your weekend! And remember this clever warning from Brooke Shields:

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”


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  1. lorilschafer

    Love the essay portion of this piece as much as the recipe!

  2. Norah

    Thanks, Charli. You have made me doubly jealous! We Aussies don’t have graham crackers either. I’ve always wondered what to substitute in recipes, but since they are often used in a cheesecake base I use a plain sweet biscuit. These s’mores sound so good. I know understand their name. It reminds me also of that Dean Martin song “That’s amore!”

    • Charli Mills (@Charli_Mills)

      That’s amore! But that’s tragic–no graham crackers in Australia. I’ll have to smuggle some contraband to you! But do think a sweet biscuit might work. You could invent the Aussie S’More!

      • Norah

        Hmm! Now there’s a challenge!

  3. TanGental

    Not my thing I admit. Lori’s right about the essay, though. And while we get S’Mores (the Vet dotes) my favourite unhealthy import from Stateside is Reece’s Pieces. And as for Hershey – we need an arm wrestle here, Charli, because having tried both, Hershey’s is Pressecco while Cadbury Chocolate is a Grand Crut.

  4. Charli Mills (@Charli_Mills)

    I’ll give up easy on the arm wrestle–Hershey is bottom of the barrel when it comes to chocolate. Perfect for wasting on S’Mores! My absolute favorite chocolate comes from a tiny Wisconsin store called Legacy. They hand roll truffles made with fresh cream and 90% chocolate. My upper end on bubbles must be low, too, not having yet experienced Grand Cut. Heck, I have a hard time financing Prosecco!

  5. Jeanne Lombardo

    Loved this and resonated with it deeply. My husband smokes. He is also a deeply philosophical man and a brilliant thinker who writes about wisdom and ethics and the future. What do a lot of people see? The cigarettes. It’s a cheap ticket to that “holier than thou” buzz that is so appealing to strangers in the street. My sister the nun used to smoke like a steam engine back when. She says she would pick it up again if she ever gave up the habit (didn’t even try for that pun.) As for the S’mores, well hell, they can’t be good for you either. And I never see Kate Blancett or Ben Affleck sucking on one of those in the movies 🙂 Oh, and thanks for the Brooke Shields quote. Reminded me of the last classic line I heard from an actress in bimbo mode: “it literally blew my mind.”

    • Charli Mills (@Charli_Mills)

      Some people go right for the weak link–it’s that classic struggle of inferiority/superiority when the truth is, we all struggle with something. I’ve always disliked the finger pointing or not seeing a person for who they are, for their brilliant mind or compassionate heart. In some ways, it’s like smokers who now gather in these little clusters of “designated areas” know more about compassion and living than those who only see the cigarettes (or pipe, or marshmallow). And no, I don’t think Jiffy Puffs are good for anybody! Great counter-quote. Literally, eh? Thanks for the reflection!

  6. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    You are right about smokers always making sure that they have a break whilst the non-smokers work right through. We certainly toasted marshmallows but the recipe is somehthing I’ve never had. The name probably comes from I’ll have some more please shortened to s’more. Probably another new comer to the S’more tradition overheard them being asked for and a name was born. I loved the quote as well.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, I learned that breaks are important. I even tried the pomodoro technique while writing but every time the timer went off my dogs thought we should go for a walk. I think you’re right about the truncated “some more please.” Definitely worth a smoke break!

  7. Sherri

    I learnt all about S’mores when I lived in California. When my American friends talked about making them on campfires I had no idea what they were talking about (being a Brit and all!). My kids love them thanks to growing up with them. Oh, and I also love Prosecco, Cava, Champers, you name it. Bubbles? I’ll raise a glass to you and this post, loved it 🙂

    • Charli Mills (@Charli_Mills)

      Toasting back with bubbles and a smoking s’more! So glad California had something good to share! 🙂 Thanks!

      • Sherri


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