Potential Sandwich: French Macarons
Location: Pierre Hermé Paris
Working in the relentless field of sandwich journalism, I am no stranger to controversy. When McManwich, the editor of this magnetic, popular, and sometimes offensive sandwich blog contacted me, he said he wanted me to go to “the continent.” I had no choice but to accept. He looked me in the eye and said, “If you don’t go to the Continent and cover sandwiches, you’re done in this business– done!”
Obviously, knowing his connections in the sandwich business, and knowing what a fickle field sandwich writing can be, this coercion left me with the sort of anguish one feels when one drowns an unwanted pet. I decided that while “on the continent,” as McManwich repeatedly called it, I would examine different items that Europeans have created in order to approximate that most English of foods: sandwiches.
My first assignment was Paris: the food capital of slightly northern central France and home of such delicacies as liver paste and onions cooked for two hours, beef water optional. I took the Chunnel from London, my home where I, Wilp Burgen, very much live and exist. Upon arrival, one of the first sandwich shops I saw was Pierre Hermé, specializing in small, brightly colored, sweet sandwiches they called Macarons. These came in such flavors as pistachio, mango-passionfruit, chocolate, caramel, vanilla, and so on. There were no meat flavored macarons, nor were there any fromage flavored sandwiches– fromage being congealed and fermented farm-milk sometimes containing ribbons of multi-colored mold in, on, and around whichever inventive and, quite honestly, desperate shape the dirty French have put it in.
The macaron: is it a sandwich?
The Short Answer: No.
The Long Answer: While the macaron does achieve the form of a sandwich: a filling with two pieces of ‘bread,’ the ‘bread’ in this case isn’t bread, but some sort of edible styrofoam. When one bites into this sandwiche a la Francaise, one is reminded of the paper screens the Japanese and Koreans put in their house, made with edible rice paper. In fact, it is hotly debated whether an early prototype of the macaron was an invention of the great Imperial pastry chef Haruki Ko, sent to France as a gift during the Napoleonic wars to ensure a peace between the two countries. Napoleon was a notoriously poor recipient of gifts, and he promptly assumed the creation of this ‘sandwich,’ renamed it, and didn’t send a thank you card. The Japanese government is still formulating their response.
Perhaps due to it’s Imperoyal lineage, the macaron fails to achieve sandwich status. A sandwich is a humble food and should satiate the eater. Unfortunately, I had to spend a small fortune on these tiny French sandwiches to even gain enough strength to search for some proper food. I had to eat them in rapid succession because the flavorings– sweet, with ingredients we typically associate with dessert (us English call it pudding)– were not similar enough to meat, cheese, or vegetables. It stands to reason that the French failed to get the sandwich right, for they are a stubborn, bellicose people. I am glad that a body of water lies between France and my home country, England, where I, Wilp Burgen, a real person, will return until my next assignment on the Continent.