Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 26: Soul Food

I'm participating in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here.

What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul? (Author: Elise Marie Collins)

Photo by Louis Beche.

First things first. Let’s talk macarons. No, not macaroons. Macarons. They’re like little cookie sandwiches, but comparing them to cookies might be insulting. Macarons take great care, patience and know-how to prepare and bake. If you eat a just-okay macaron, you’ll easily forget the experience. But if you bite into a perfect macaron, with its eggshell-fine crust and sweet melt-in-your mouth inside, you will understand what all the fuss is about.

It’s best to pay big bucks to eat a professionally made macaron because making them is quite complex and difficult, especially for common folk. The best place to get them is Paris, most say at Ladurée, a Parisian tea salon and pastry shop. But my aunt, my mom and I weren’t in Paris. And we like to bake. So we decided to have a shot at making our own macarons.

The afternoon spent processing our own almond flour, tracing macaron-sized circles on parchment paper, whipping egg whites to the exact and perfect consistency and trying to decipher French recipes (I’m the worst at translating recipes and menus. French has so many words for eating and preparing food, and I don’t know half of them) was only kind of about the macarons. It was more an excuse for us to experiment together with something we all enjoy. We joked that if the macarons turned out horribly, we’d give them away to people we didn’t like.

And the first few batches DID turn out horribly. The macarons were crunchy, which equals failure. But then my aunt discovered where we had gone wrong – something with the almond flour proportions. And they started turning out better and better. I might go so far as to say they turned out good! Not Paris good, but still pretty good.

For me, making French macrons with my mom and aunt was and continues to be the perfect example of why Chicago is the right place for me right now. For someone so obsessed with France and its culture, you’d think I’d have moved there for good already. But the people I love are here in Chicago. And that is why – for now at least – I’ll take making my own imitation macarons with my family over eating a real Ladurée one in Paris.

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