Monday, April 07, 2008


Macarons! Not macaroons, the coconut filled American cookie, but French macarons. Apparently one thinks of macarons and Paris as "macarons and Paris", as a single thought, in the same way one thinks "English and tea", "San Francisco and Rice a Roni (although seriously folks, that's so not true - think "San Francisco and sourdough" or "San Francisco and cioppino" if you want to be taken seriously), "New York and bagels", "New Orleans and gumbo" - you get the idea.

I don't remember how or when I first heard about macarons - alas, not when I was actually in Paris. It was afterwards, blog hopping through Francophiles' blogs methinks. Regardless, from the moment I first laid eyes on a picture of them, I have been fascinated - no, make that OBSESSED with tasting one. Or, as you can see that they come in assorted colors, signifying assorted flavors, I'm obsessed with tasting three or four or ten of them.

When I was a little girl I had a story book about a girl and a magic pot of custard. I don't remember the title and I don't know what ever happened to it. I no longer have it. I don't even remember the story that well except that it followed along the general theme of The Sorcerer's Apprentice where a pot of custard would refill to keep a poor family fed but one day it is abused and overflows, refusing to stop until everyone was drowning in custard and the little girl comes and saves the day by saying the magic words and a morality lesson about the consequences of greed is learned by all. (Run on sentence - gasp! - take a deep breath) What I do remember vividly is that I was fascinated with the pictures, particularly the custard, which was a creamy yellow. As far as I knew, I had never in my life tasted custard, in fact I didn't know what custard was except that it appeared to be something like pudding. And yet I somehow knew from the illustrations that it was NOT pudding, nor would it taste or feel like pudding. I knew it wouldn't taste like anything I'd ever tasted and yet at the same time I knew exactly how it would taste and feel iin my mouth and I craved it, longed for it passionately.

Years later - many years later - we're talking two, three decades later, I was offered an unusual dessert for the first time at a Mexican Restaurant. Flan. Flan WAS the custard of my childhood fantasy! It tasted just right and it had the exactly perfect "mouth feel" that I expected it to have, entirely different from anything I'd ever tasted before. (Two days ago I had my very first creme caramel and it too tasted just right - creme caramel must be the French equivalent of flan.)

That's how I feel about French Macarons. I do not KNOW how they taste but I IMAGINE how they taste - more wonderful than mundane every day fare. They must, I believe, taste magical. Finding and biting into my first macaron is up there in the first things I want to do after arriving in Paris. Of course, part of me knows that the experience may not be anything close to my fantasy. I might be disappointed. There's even the (slim) possibility that I won't like them much at all. But then again, they might be a food from the Gods, just as I imagine. It's worth the risk to find out.


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