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)