OPINION

WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Interesting stories

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

I am always looking for an interesting story; something with uniqueness and maybe – if I’m lucky – a special origin story. Sometimes, I hit the jackpot.

This is what happened recently when I was walking through the Denison Depot – you know, the old train station from the city’s rich railroad history. The new owner is remaking it into an ‘Art Depot’ with eclectic shops and restaurants. As I look at the new storefronts, one catches my eye: “Tasty Tex.”

Of course, at first, I thought ‘Tex-Mex,’ but boy, was I wrong! The space was empty except for the sign, but you could tell someone was doing something; getting ready for opening. After some digging and repeat trips to the Depot, I got to meet that ‘someone,’ Aaron McClafferty, from Van Alstyne.

And of all the things, he makes homemade marshmallows. Wow! Did you ever consider making those confections at home?! Not me, for sure; now, that’s unique in my book. And he also delves in the obvious extension of marshmallows: the S’more: that decadent mixture of graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow. “Tasty Tex” will be his production site with a smallish retail store space out front.

“I do homemade marshmallows and gourmet s’mores in the shape of Texas (Naturally!),” said McClafferty, who is doing all the work himself to open the new site. “My plan is to be open and producing in early November in time for the holidays.”

The story of how McClafferty came to marshmallows and Denison is as unique as his creations. In August 2020, during the height of the pandemic, he was furloughed from his corporate job with only the faintest hint of a return. McClafferty had been trained as a chef before moving to the corporate world 10 years before.

“I didn’t know what to do; I had so much time, so I started playing around with some recipes,” he noted. “I tried them out on some friends; and came up with marshmallows. They posted on Facebook; and people started writing that they loved the concept and just had to have them. It kinda took off without me really pushing it.”

Soon, he was selling his wares at the Van Alstyne Farmer’s Market and then, at Denison’s, too. The concept just grew and grew. McClafferty started with only two flavors, which expanded to five quickly. He started going to the Dallas Farmer’s Market. Before he knew it, he had a social media presence and a web-site for orders.

“I began traveling the metroplex; and having seasonal flavors (Pumpkin!),” recalled McClafferty. “I have a permanent place at the Dallas Farmer’s Market; everybody wants them. I had no idea it would take off like it has.”

So, the next obvious step would be to open a retail store for his gooey confections; and Denison was an easy choice. He says that he is just ‘growing with the tide’ as the popularity continues for his tasty bites.

“This is so exciting; I am so excited,” he said. “The Depot is my favorite building in Texas; Denison is one of my favorite cities; the small-town feel. I just love it.”

McClafferty said he ‘loves meeting people’ and is amazed at how ‘it has taken off.’ He can only make 25 marshmallows at a time in special molds; and he has to ‘come up high on sugar content to get it to set.’ He even makes his own graham crackers; a gluten free version as well.

“It’s all pretty fun; I make it from scratch,” explained McClafferty. “It’s a quirky process, but I love it.”

He has experimented with flavors and colors all through the marshmallow process: cheesecake, strawberry, banana, chocolate swirl, orange, cotton candy, lemon, key lime, peach, watermelon and vanilla to name a few.

“it’s all chef-driven; I want to do it right,” he noted. “The S’mores are a driving force; a cool novelty.”

McClafferty’s S’more creations include roasted almonds, coconut, salted caramel and dark chocolate in the shape of Texas. He also makes an ‘El Paso’ with pretzels and salted caramel. He has chocolate dipped marshmallows and marshmallows on a stick for campouts. Candies and nuts are also in the mix.

“You never know what you will get,” he smiled. “I’m still learning where this thing is going”.

McClafferty has a web-site: tastytex.com; and has a presence on Facebook and Instagram. He is having so much fun that he can’t believe it sometimes. All because of a pandemic and a furlough.

“I get to play with chocolate and marshmallows,” he said. “Life is good!”

I love these types of stories. ‘Tasty Tex’ is one of them; it leaves me wanting some more…

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.