Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Well, I've had a life changing experience that I simply must share. I got to try macarons!

In case any of my few but proud readers don't know what a macaron is, it's a French sandwich cookie of simple egg white and almond flour cookies with jam or butter cream fillings. They come in a panoply of flavors and a rainbow of gorgeous pastel colors that make them as lovely to look at as they are to eat. Go here to look at their loveliness, sigh, and come right back. I'm not through exulting.

Oh,good, you're back! Weren't they pretty?

The ones I was privileged to eat were from that very same Parisian confectioner, but my box looked different than the one in the background of the cookies. It may be more lovely. Look.

Leave it to the French to make a cookie box a work of art.

When I excitedly told my husband on the phone that I was going to keep the box forever, he said "A cardboard box?" People, this is just a box like a Tiffanys box is just a box. Everyone knows that certain shade of blue that stands for beauty and luxury and a dream of life. This box is like that for me, representing delicacy, devotion to craft, and a fineness about which I only fantasize. Unlike my one Tiffany's experience, albeit in Cinncinati and not New York, the macaron experience was not a mild disappointment. (Believe it or not, the only item in Tiffanys that made me at all wistful was--are you ready for this?--a set of dishes.) Those adorable cookies, on the other hand, were every bit as delicious as the buzz about them has been loud.

The delicate crust gives way to an airy and perfectly chewy cookie interior and then the extra flavor wallop of the fillings. In my box was an assortment of flavors that could only be delightfully guessed at, since the package could contain any of the regular or seasonal flavors listed on the accompanying paper. We still weren't sure what all of them actually were even after consuming the entire dozen, but it was great fun trying to figure it out. We did identify some obvious ones, like dark chocolate, which created a much bigger immediate chocolate explosion on the palate than the pale color and dainty size of the cookie made us expect, the pistachio with its customary pale green color, and salted-butter caramel, from the bracing combination of its eponymous components. The ones I couldn't place were so good, who cared?

I say "we" and "us" because I was sharing them with someone, the someone to whom they technically belonged. He received them as a gift for house sitting for friends while they went to Barcelona and Paris. When he wanted someone to properly appreciate the taste adventure with him before their "best by" date had passed (as in, that day), he thought of lucky me because I'm not only a foodie, but a Francophile. I was touched, thrilled, and transported.

No, really, I was. There I was, sipping a cup of hot tea (another rare occurrence in the middle of the day) and nibbling fabulous cookies direct from Paris in a regular old office in a small town in Kentucky, where most residents probably don't know what a macaron is. It was as if someone arrived with stardust for me to sample, so exotic and unexpected was it. I mean, macarons were something I read about, especially here. Then through the magic of jet travel, these fragile and rarified cookies were transported from another world to mine. And their world is one that happens to have a hold on my imagination at the level of fantasy, the kind of fantasy that you don't expect or need to become reality. (Ah
Paris! I roamed her streets in the days of my youth, before the macaron craze.) It was absolute delight that somehow a part of her came to me that day.

The best part is that the experience did indeed measure up to the expectation, unlike my sampling of fois gras and caviar. (I believe the current expression is meh?) I found not one crumb of disappointment in that beautiful box. It was a fantastical few moments in the middle of an ordinary day that I will probably treasure forever, along with the unnecessarily beautiful box. In fact, I feel a sparkle just thinking about it. And that definitely makes life a finer thing.

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