Building's technical editor bemoans the rigidity of marshmallows as he becomes competitive dad at a spaghetti building competition.
For some people spaghetti and marshmallows is an irresistible combination. When my youngest son's primary school organised a competition to see which parents could build the tallest structure capable of supporting a crème egg from these ingredients my wife rushed out and put our name down. My first reaction was she must think my job as technical editor of Building might give us some kind of competitive advantage. But I realised I was wrong when I got home and found my wife grappling with a pile of marshmallows and spaghetti in the kitchen.
We quickly realised spaghetti and marshmallows will only ever make it onto a building site in a lunch box. The marshmallow has structural qualities on a par with its nutritional value, in other words near zero. In theory the marshmallows are the structural connectors that fix the strands of spaghetti together but in reality are so squidgy the spaghetti is free to wobble around, a problem made worse by warm hands. It seemed impossible to give the structure any kind of rigidity and stop it twisting around itself and collapsing into a sticky heap.
A hasty email to a well known structural engineer didn't get an answer so there was nothing for it but go for it when the big day arrived. We had just twenty minutes to build the culinary equivalent of the Burj Dubai. To my horror the other parents all appeared to have structural engineering degrees as their structures rose from the floor. I quickly decided that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and copied what appeared to be the recipe for success - jam as many strands of spaghetti as possible into each marshmallow to stop it wobbling around.
In ten minutes we had a credible structure and even had time to perfect the platform for the crème egg. On looking up I was delighted to see all that initial promise had disintegrated into a tangled mess - anyone with a structure more than 10mm high was in with a chance. Our structure was 520mm high so we were even more pleased when we came second. The winning structure was an anarchic collection of randomly placed strands of spaghetti connected with lots of marshmallows and proves that qualifications aren't everything.