Grumpy Monday: I just don't get macarons
Despite the fact that I no longer work a 5-day-a-week, 9-to-5 job (it’s more like 7 days a week, 5am to 2am, with a nap in between) and weekends no longer are the 2 days of blissful nothingness they used to be, Mondays always make me rather grumpy. And when I’m grumpy, I just feeling like complaining. Too many food blogs are all sunshine and happiness and how delicious the blogger’s recipes turn out to be and how beautiful life is and how passionate s/he is about Life. Well, I’m not like that. I have a tendency to always see the bad and good side of everything. And more often than not, I’m a grump.
So anyway, on to the main topic. I just don’t get the fuss made over macarons. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there’s no there there in them.
Macarons have been the It Girls of the food world for the last couple of years. Everyone interested in baking or pastry or even just cooking wants to give them a try. Many people get positively rhapsodical about them. People dream of going to Paris to try the ones from Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, and so on.
I’ve tried, so many times, to like macarons. I do absolutely love the way they look - round, flat, in bright colors, so adorable and chic. But the way they taste and feel in the mouth just make me go, eh?
I do admit to not having the biggest sweet tooth in the world. (If I have to choose between cheese and a dessert to finish a meal, I always go for the cheese. Of course both is preferable.) But that’s not to say that I avoid sugary treats - oh no no no. I love good chocolate, adore jam and preserves, am slightly obsessed with trying different flavors of caramel. (The last one I tried was a buttered roasted corn flavored caramel from Hokkaido. Now, that was yum.)
I even love meringues - and a macaron is sort of like a meringue with filling. The highest expression of the meringue to me is that Anglo-Australian concoction, the Pavlova. The combination of crispy-gooey meringue with loads of whipped cream and fresh, slightly sour fruit is just heaven. But macarons? They are just…meh. There’s not much balance really, is there - the meringue part is sweet, the filling is sweet, with only a slight hint of sourness or something else in there on occasion. And the mouth feel…it tends to stick on ones front teeth, and the crispy-crumbly parts scratch my throat if I bite into one too aggressively.
It’s not like I’ve really tried to like them, really. When I was in Paris last April, I went around determinedly sampling macarons from all the places that are supposed to have great macarons. The ones in the photo below are from Sadaharu Aoki’s boutique. They are sort of like Jessica Alba - beautiful, just gorgeous, but not much on the inside. (Disclaimer: I have no idea how intelligent Ms. Alba is, but she sure isn’t a great actress.)
Last fall Ladurée opened a small store in Zürich. I hadn’t gotten around to trying them out yet, but last week I did. Again, they are just gorgeous things, these macarons. But worth the equivalent of $12.60 per 100 grams?
Frankly, I’d rather walk over to Sprüngli at Paradeplatz and buy some of their to-die-for Cru Sauvage chocolate truffles. Sprüngli also has their version of macarons, called Luxemburgerli..also pretty, also sort of nothing there there. But they are very popular.
I have a feeling that at least part of the rapture over macarons has as much to do with how people feel about Paris as anything else. Macarons are so pretty, elegant, and seem for Parisian. So it becomes part of the whole Paris fantasy thing.
Many trendy macarons taste like something else. For instance, the one I liked the best from Ladurée tastes like salted caramel, which is nice. I also had one at Eleven Madison in New York that tasted like buttered popcorn, also very nice. But to be honest, I’d much rather have the real salted caramel, or real buttered popcorn. The macarons are just pretty little pretenders.
How do you feel about macarons? Am I a total philistine for dissing them? Is there any other ‘trendy’ food that you feel like this about?