Fad­sa­side, French cookie en­dures

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE TRENDS - ES­SAY

NANCY, France — In the back of a pas­try shop in this city in eastern France is a small kitchen that holds a se­cret.

Ni­co­las Génot comes here early ev­ery morn­ing, shuts the slid­ing door be­hind him and trans­forms ground al­monds, egg whites and sugar into cook­ies called macarons. He works alone.

This mac­aron — round, un­adorned, with rough fis­sures in its crisp golden crust — is made from a cen­turies-old recipe. In 1792, two Bene­dic­tine nuns, driven from their con­vent af­ter France’s postrev­o­lu­tion­ary govern­ment banned re­li­gious or­ders, took refuge with a lo­cal doc­tor and made a liv­ing mak­ing macarons. Their recipe has been passed down in se­cret ever since.

Th­ese are the time­less, rus­tic orig­i­nals that be­got the smooth-topped, puffed up, ganache-filled, pas­tel food-col­ored sand­wich con­fec­tions we know. But those trendy present-day cousins are go­ing through strange times. What was once the most ex­quis­ite of small plea­sures is every­where to­day. Some have ketchup in the mid­dle. Some are from McDon­ald’s.

So dis­ap­point­ing, at a time when the per­fect mac­aron has never been needed more.

With the French econ­omy spi­ral­ing down­ward and pes­simism in­fect­ing the coun­try, la patis­serie (the pas­try) has risen in im­por­tance. “Is la pâtisserie go­ing to re­place sex?” screamed the head­line of an ar­ti­cle in the mag­a­zine Mar­i­anne this spring. But the mac­aron is not the sub­ject. Madame Fi­garo mag­a­zine an­nounced re­cently that “the cream-filled puff pas­try has re­placed the mac­aron.” And the Styles sup­ple­ment of the weekly mag­a­zine L’Ex­press de­clared the éclair the win­ner, hav­ing “ren­dered the mac­aron old-fash­ioned.”

Of course none of this mat­ters to Mr. Génot,

DAMIEN LAFARGUE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Macarons come in many fla­vors, in­clud­ing th­ese at a Paris bak­ery.

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