mouth yoga

Macarons: Mouth Yoga

So, I didn’t actually realize this, but that other O between Macaroon and Macaron is not optional. It wasn’t until I was stalking them on Instagram that I realized my faux pas. I knew they were different things but I’ve always pronounced them the same (and it is super fun to say mack-uh-roooon. Try it this instant. It feels good. Seriously, half of eating is just the psychology behind how good things SOUND. Ponder: it’s our first question and our first response when attempting to discern the most satisfying solution to hunger — “What sounds good to you?” or, “I want it. That sounds goooood.” And if there is no agreeable solution, eating is a total drag. And then I just turn to chips. Because, chips. Also because cool fact of crunching releases endorphins which is why chips hit the spot almost every single time. But this is not about chips.)  and never given it much thought.

For those who are unfamiliar with either confection, the two are vastly different, though they share etymological origins  and ingredient base. A Macaroon essentially looks like a mole hill of shredded coconut that is sometimes dipped in chocolate if you’re lucky (and you should always aim to get lucky, because the chocolate-dipped ones are the only ones worth eating) and is the same concept as a rice crispy treat, only with meringue in lieu of marshmallow. Either way it’s a lot to chew and you’ll get sticky. In comparison, a macaron is a not even distantly related cousin. Macarons are alluring little pucks that resemble Pretty Patties out of Bikini Bottom — itty bitty burger things pigmented in an assortment of Crayola pastels and neons.  They magnetize your eyeballs and are always displayed in windows to prey upon the passerby.

Macarons weren’t even on my radar until a couple months ago during my time in England. (I really should have bought one while I was there, since England is a lot closer to France than New England, but, this logic was not present in my life at the time.)  They were in a few windows I passed in both London and Oxford, but it was England, and everything is look-worthy there, so I mentally moved on because of all the other sights I had to absorb and didn’t think about them much more after that until this past Saturday. Now, I’ve been home for two months, so I’ve had a good quarter of a year to really let those glimpses stew into fantasy. Those four months ballooned into resolve. I needed one. I needed one bad. I didn’t even realize how badly I needed one until I saw stacks of the little sandwiches again and remembered their addictive whimsy.

Luckily for me, my parents and I take a day trip to Skaneateles Lake annually. It’s an end-of-summer send-off filled with comforting food and retail therapy. We always try to scope out what’s changed since our previous visit, and this year most notable went to the Skaneateles Bakery’s acquisition of the corner storefront next door, aptly named The Corner at Skaneateles Bakery. It gives a more poised, airy café vibe than the original hub and it’s the first place we hit upon arrival. Our goal was coffee (they have good coffee). Before I could even figure out what roast I wanted my eyes fell upon the macarons: bright orange, flamingo pink, dusty purple, deep chocolate, soft taupe, tea green — they were gorgeous. They’re probably the only thing that could hiccup my caffeine tunnel vision. That purpley-blue one, though…I wanted it. The color lent itself to hospitality and the flavour sounded exotic, but with a more conservative exoticism than the Pink Lemonade one which sounded weird, like watermelon-flavoured anything, which is gross. (Don’t worry, I do recognize how my perception of a blueberry macaroon comes across; reading into a pastry like it’s a person is just a natural talent I have.) Anyway, common sense/propriety/societal norms/the part of me trying to be an adult said, “No no, Amanda, 9:30am is far too early to eat a macaroon of all things.” “But THOSE BLUEBERRY MACAROOOONNNSSSZZAH I NEEEED THEMMMM,” the other 75% of me whined. Somewhere along the way propriety got its hands on my better judgement and I left the goods behind, black coffee in hand. But it didn’t feel right.

So, we wandered the streets and meandered through stores, perusing shelves of kitschy knickknacks and the good kind of candles with the crackling wick. With each new establishment my thoughts, much less muddled thanks to the medium roast, drifted back to those curious cookies. (I know this sounds dramatic. It’s supposed to. This is how it felt, man.) Lunchtime would have been perfect to claim my idol, especially since we ate at a restaurant facing The Corner, but still I waited, reasoning that it would be much more gratifying the longer I waited. Foolish Manders.  It wasn’t until after 4pm and another cup of coffee that I went back, determined not to put this off any longer. It was time. Hours of toying with the idea, put to rest.

SIKE. All the beautiful baby sandwiches stared at me like Marcel the Shell but NO BLUEBERRY. Because some other, clearly horrible, person had literally just bought the last one minutes before I came back, according to the girl behind the counter, who clearly did not understand why I was so crestfallen. Working through these feelings was hard and I almost left, but, grief and moderation told me to buy three inferior macarons to the much coveted, mentally-masticated blueberry. I settled for the Pink Lemonade, Green Tea, and Chocolate flavours, a little of everything and pretty to boot. Upon purchase to go I promptly sat on the sidewalk directly outside to start on the weird ones.

The problem with fantasy is that it leads to preconceived expectations; macarons were no exception. They flouted all my sensory assumptions. Firstly, they were much lighter than I anticipated — I imagined something akin to a whoopie pie: frosting between dense muffin-tops. Instead I poked a hole through the crisp shell of Pink Lemonade on accident while trying to assess its composition. The rounds weren’t hollow, though; there was definitely a cake element. And they weren’t soft, but they weren’t as crispy as the outermost part. I took a breath and then I took a bite, because anticipation makes it even better. Pink Lemonade was pleasantly surprising, subtle and sweet; between the texture and happy taste I knew I was obsessed. And while the flavour wasn’t overpowering, the cookie itself left a cloying aftertaste, so I moved on to Green Tea and it was even better and wasn’t even weird. A bit thicker and lighter and less sweet after the fact. I saved the chocolate one for last, by the lake, and though I’d like to hold on to my angst over the fate-torn blueberry, it completely made up for my perceived lack. It was like fudgey yoga in my mouth. MOUTH YOGA. I couldn’t even talk, it was just macaron and me,  and the lake, and closure, and it was just really, really good. The end.

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