The Virgin Macaron and the Gun
Wouldn't we all love to go to the nut shop where it's always fun. well I suppose first we would all love to actually have a nut shop to go to. I know I would. A nut shop would be a thing of wonder to behold, nuts nuts nuts as far as the eye could see; pistachios, and almonds, walnuts and pecans...Harlan Pepper? To have a nut shop to retreat to would mean to always have those little necessities close at hand. Yes a nut is a necessity. And with this necessity, we can make macarons.
The Salty Cod has never before attempted a macaron. They loomed in our radar as much too far out of our league, why? Perhaps it was their awesome majesty of divine grace exuded in the patisserie windows of Paris. The fancy pedestals, the glittering boxes-- row upon perfect row of every color in the rainbow. I was a common window smudge at Lenotre, gawking at the magnificent macaron trees; each tier a different color. Those are French. Those are French, i would tell myself, someday i will make one. Just not yet. I'm not good enough yet.
Well am i good enough yet? No, but i have had a change of mind--why wait until something is better to go for it, all of the could haves in the interim will be lost if we wait until we are good enough. Perhaps there won't be another chance for it. The idea came while rolling on the acorns in the park, i am going to make macarons, i decide as I skid to a bench to hop over, who cares if they don't look as good as the others out there. It was but a few hours later that I get a call from my boss with a last minute assignment (have I mentioned I am a newspaper photographer?) there's a big army ROTC event over in Mica, Idaho tomorrow morning, it's a training and a memorial, I need you to go shoot it. me: But I had planned on making macarons tomorrow...get someone else. Alright so i didn't say that, yes when and where? As per usual, the correct response. Macarons, afterward.
Winding down highway to farmland nowhere's-ville, I arrive (after a few turn arounds) down a road that (no was not on the map) at the shooting range where the university ROTC were having a rifle training session as well as a memorial to a former student recently lost in Afghanistan. After a lot of army jargon, stiff hand shakes, macho jumping jacks, yadda yadda yeah we all love Sarah Palin, god bless yep yep, I am accosted by an old friend with the words, so are you going to shoot a few rounds? I look at him, Excuse me? He responds, don't be scared, here's a bag of goodies, and i am handed a large bag of ammunition.
The immediate thought was repulsion; I hate guns, I hate the NRA, I do not believe in a right to bear arms, i'm a bleeding liberal voting for mis-ter Obama, I have a shirt that says Make bread not war, and you want me to shoot an army rifle? Have you gone mad? Needless to say when in the middle of nowhere with thirty army guys trying to put an assault rifle in your poor-little feminine fingers, you don't have much of a choice other than to just smile and take it. Or did I? The thoughts quickly ran to when would I ever be in this position of chance again? Is that guilt I feel from the little pebble inside that actually wants to hold that black monster? As a photographer one ends up at many a strange event, treasure chests full of chance encounters, free food, unexpected places, and well high tech military artillery in your hands. Lock and load.
I have shot a gun now. It was not as terrible as I had imagined. Though I did begin to tear behind my sunglasses while overhearing conversations of damn you got him right in the head, you got that bastard! I know that it is people who turn machines into monsters, and though the world would be a better place without them, it is the person holding the gun who is making the choice to pull the trigger. Yes these guys are training for the army. Training to go off and shoot people. Callousness to death is a necessity for a soldier. Me, I will pull the trigger at the cardboard target, blink as the cases ping back off of my glasses and forehead, I will remove the cartridge, set it down, and be content to never hold one again. I am applauded by my army men, but really, guns are no game. Almonds caught in egg beaters shooting astray from their bowl is a much more tempting bullet for me. Let's make macarons.
An initial attempt at a macaron would be ridiculous without consulting the wise teachings of Helen pastry chef at the world renound Tartelette. We cannot do everything on our own, so take help where you can get it. My eyes were glued to the step by step instructions i had studied the previous night repetitively as if for a midterm exam. The Torah of Macarons, the New Testament and the word of Allah all in one. Yes i let sit the egg whites overnight for twenty four hours. Yes I went out and finally bought a pastry bag. Well, a few compromises. No stand mixer. No egg beaters. Meringue by hand hooray! Grind almonds...well the margarita magic bullet, i am finding to be not so magical. Parchment paper? Crap I hate grams...but we will persevere. System D as we say.
Macarons are like blank coloring books, the shapes are there, you however fill in the lines. A macaron shell is a combination of meringue and ground almonds, while the center is n'importe de quoi. Therefore it's up to you. Nuts of course. Inspiration from Helens recent post on pecan pie macarons, i decided to make a thanksgiving macaron. Pecan in the shell as is her recipe, but with a cranberry cream cheese butter cream for the inside. Where we worried? Were we scared? Did it work out? Oui.
Cranberry Pecan Cheesecake Macarons:
Ingredients shell: 1/2 cup ground almods ~ 1/2 cup ground pecans ~ 3 egg whites ~ 1/4 cup sugar ~ 1.5 cups powdered sugar
Ingredients filling: 4 oz cream cheese ~ some cranberry jelly ~ 1 cup powdered sugar ~ 1/4 cup butter
method: just go here.
Our first macaron, our first gun. Two daunting images in one day. Life at the Salty Cod, sometimes isn't so boring after all. I will do the macaron again, the gun, well i can quit you. There is too much pain caused by that one three little word to give it anything more. The ROTC men were all thrills and chills and peppermint pills, for some perhaps they must. Dollface, Betty Crocker--call me what they will, at the end of the day I am more proud of my little macaron than getting up there in front of all their eyes and pulling the trigger.