A Sweet Start

  Bottega Louie , Downtown Los Angeles

Bottega Louie, Downtown Los Angeles

Ah, the sweet smell of macaroons and marble. 

Do you know where the macaron came from? You may assume French origins, because the name is itself a French word, but it's a bit more complicated than that. The macaron is fabled to have been invented by the chef of Florentine noblewoman Catherine de Medici in 1533. It was in this same year that she married Henry, the second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France. She was a symbol of cultural exchange between the two countries, but there had been diplomatic relations and shared feasts for many years before she and Henry married—and in fact before her birth, as she was just 14 when they were wed. 

There are many more culinary myths that surround Catherine's contributions to food, food preparation techniques, and utensils. And although it would make a compelling and simple story, most, unfortunately, are unsubstantiated.  

 Catherine de Medici Portrait (Link on image to site of origin)

Catherine de Medici Portrait (Link on image to site of origin)

It does not take much digging to uncover a list of "items whose introduction to France have been spuriously attributed to Catherine." These include the dinner fork, (yes THE dinner fork), parsley, artichoke, lettuce, broccoli, garden peas, pasta, Parmesan, "as well as the turkey and tomato of theNew World. She has also received false credit for introducing sauces and a variety of dishes such as duck à l’orange and deviled eggs." (Via)

And then there is the sweet, colorful, fashionable macaron. Could this also be added to the list of falsified legends?

  Bottega Louie , Downtown Los Angeles

Bottega Louie, Downtown Los Angeles

According to "Mad Mac Macaron", a sweet maker in NYC, she was indeed the one to whom we can bestow the sweet honor: 

"The Macaron cookie was born in Italy, introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medici in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans who became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. [...]The first Macarons were simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. Many towns throughout France have their own prized tale surrounding this delicacy."

But the macaron was not always a double-cookie with filling, so how can we even compare something so different with what Catherine would have known? Almond flour desserts were already quite popular though history (since at least the 700s). But "Pierre Desfontaines, owner of the famous Ladurée pâtisserie in Paris, got the idea of placing a layer of cream between two single macarons while on a trip to Switzerland. "

Nearly 450 years later, Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree (Laduree pastry and salon) had the idea to fill them with a "chocolate panache" and to stick them together. He apparently got the idea of placing a layer of cream between two single macarons while on a trip to Switzerland. (Via Bonjour Paris )

Whatever the true history, we wish you sweetness and ease in this new year as you bite into it!

Liz PearComment