macarons are not macaroons and there’s a whole zine to tell you

Macarons Are Not Macaroons

When Melbourne food blogger matriarch Claire of Melbourne Gastronome egged me on (haha, see what I did there) to purchase a copy of the zine Macarons Are Not Macaroons, this newbie food blogger did so. Sadly, I was once one of those who didn’t really know the difference between a macaron and a macaroon, and had no qualms about admitting it on Claire’s blog via comments a few months ago. Thus, financial damage occurred and zine nirvana Sticky Institute was the richer for it.

You only have to check the Masterchef hashtag on Twitter to see how much ire the show inspires. I haven’t seen all that much of it (somewhat weird given every Tom, Dick and Harriet of the slightest foodie leanings is watching it) but yes, I have noticed that it attracts a lot of critical (as in bitching and moaning -not high-brow analysis) commentary, much of it warranted.

The author of Macarons Are Not Macaroons is no different. On the first page of the zine some of her mission statement reads:

“…And for anyone who watched Master Chef in 2009 that stood up and yelled at the TV as that panel of Professional Chefs and Eaters crunched into burnt macarons and called them macaroons.”

What follows is the author’s part-instructional guide, part-life story bound up in macaron obsession.

She starts off by explaining a bit of her involvement and interest in the Lolita subculture, and how everything has to look doll-like and cute, and sugary. Macarons apparently fit this subculture’s aesthetic perfectly – indeed, they are delicate, morsel-sized and very pretty in their pastel colours. All of these things are also very high-maintenance: macarons are, according to the zine, very fiddly bastards to make. I wouldn’t stand a chance in the Lolita subculture, preferring to be dressed for comfort (read: scruffy). I suspect that macaron-making would also drive me a little batty.

I find there is something quite carnivalesque and sinister about a world made of candies, sweets, ruffles and consummate prettiness – think Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette. The main protagonist constructs a gorgeous candy-pastel world but she does not have a happy life. If we want to go down an even more grotesque path, I can recommend the Korean film Hansel and Gretel – a modern take on an evil witch seducing and entrapping children using the lure of sweets. At first the kids think it’s fantastic that there’s always cake and all these pretty sweets to eat, but then it becomes a bit weird…even they twig that cake and cupcakes isn’t suitable for every meal.

So…I ask you, is the macaron a delightful being, or a beast designed to bring you to your personal downfall? The zine author would argue the latter. Doctor Faustus turned to Mephistopheles in pain despite all his knowledge. Macaron makers would, I fear, be inspired to do the same – chase the perfect macaron but turn to the dark side in despair…

The bulk of the zine is devoted to educating the reader upon the subtle differences between macarons and macaroons, saving up for expensive equipment to cook these tricky buggers and inadvertently driving the people she lives with mad with her own obsessive hunt to perfect her technique. There’s a lot of different recipes, and she also discusses where to get good macarons in Melbourne, and where to avoid getting substandard ones.

My major gripe with this zine is that…if the macaron is held up as the object of obsession for the length of the zine, then how on earth is it that the author never spells ganache correctly? The ganache is an integral part to the macaron, and it’s not misspelt just once but throughout the entire zine, except where she’s pasted recipes gleaned or ripped out from other books or magazines. The macaron pedant in me rages (the pedant more than the macaron-lover, admittedly). However, if you don’t mind shelling out $4 for a nice, thick zine on macarons, then you can find it at Sticky Institute in the city, or online via their mail order department.

(cheers to the tech guy-monkey for some editorial clarification)

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18 thoughts on “macarons are not macaroons and there’s a whole zine to tell you

  1. claire

    Shame on the author – SHAME, I say! – for misspelling ‘ganache’ after all of her admirable macaro(o)n pedantry. Thanks again for the zine!! 🙂

  2. Gem

    @melbgastronome you said it best when you said that misspelling ‘ganache’ makes baby Jesus and Ganesh cry, giggle. Hope you enjoy the zine!

  3. Celeste @ Berrytravels

    Hey! We didn’t really get to talk at #duckfest, but nice to meet you anyhow, I was the (greedy) asian sandwiched between Kat and April. *waves*It was really interesting to read this entry in particular as this zine was written and published by a good friend of mine. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even realise the spelling error! I will have to go back and take a look now, you’ve gotten me all curious.Hopefully get to speak with you more at subsequent events!

  4. Gem

    @petitevalse hi Celeste! You must’ve been one of the poor folks who had to get up every time I needed to go to the loo! Shame I didn’t get to talk to you too – alas you saw where I was sitting! Small world, your friend made that zine? That’s so cool. And yes, I’m sure our paths will cross again 🙂

  5. Ashley

    Hi Gem! Thanks so much for recommending the zine to me! I was reading your review yesterday and decided I’d go pick it up, only a couple pages in, but fascinating!

  6. becksley

    oh man, i am so so sorry i spelt ganache wrong. i didn’t even realize until you said it; no one would proof the zine for me, it was too long .___.;

  7. Gem

    @becksley really? Very sorry to hear that – I heard a whisper that you might be planning a sequel to the macaron zine and I’d love to offer my proof-reading services if you like 🙂 Spelling aside, I did very much enjoy reading it 🙂

  8. becksley

    yeah, the original draft was got to something like 10 or 11 thousand words before my friends started yelling CUT IT BACK CUT IT BACK, it looked like a lot on paper and because they had already live through my crazy, no one wanted to read the book version :/ turns out it doesn’t read like a 30 page document when you make it into a zine. and yeah, i am making a sequel, mostly because of the above point. i was so so worried about the first one being too long i dropped heaps of stuff i wanted to include, so the second one will be more like a companion-zine i think [or hope]. i haven’t started it yet, but when it gets to proofing stages, i will let you know :)and i’m so glad you liked it. i honestly didn’t think it’d make it to the food-blogigng world. it’s a kind of surreal thing to have happened, thank you so much for the props <3

  9. Luke

    hey gem, great post… when kim made them the other night (see: i couldn’t help myself in correcting everyone repeatedly,

    “it’s ron, not roon, look at wikipedia!”.

    glazed eyes and subject change ensued *sigh*.

    1. Gem

      Nice work Luke! Did you actually try to make those difficult bastards?

      Keep up the good (pedantic) work buddy. There are others flying that flag with you! 🙂

        1. Gem

          Ahh okay. Well then, she should definitely learn the difference between macaron and macaroon if she can make them 🙂

  10. Pingback: (live, love) eat, drink, stagger » oh crumbs!* of macarons? ooh yes!

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