I was looking back at some early posts on this blog, and I realized that some of my first attempts were far closer to the mark than the later ones. Attempt no. 2, for example – the shells have little proto-feet! I am going to try these again, particularly now that I know what “molten lava/ribbon-like texture” looks like.
My technique, however, clearly was not the problem. There is a Greek macaron shop on Athinas Street, Makaron Lonis, just up from Monastiraki Square and their macarons don’t have feet. So this is what I have been up against. I should have been studying French philosophy all along. Unfortunately, given my track record on macarons, I think I have to start with the Existentialists, and specifically, Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.
The rest of you can just skip to the part about the lemon macarons if you want.
According to Philosophy Now magazine, Being and Nothingness posits that there are, effectively, things that are not us, and us. (I know this is not grammatically correct, but it sounds better.) The things that are not us are beings in-themselves, that is, they exist apart from us, outside our experience or conception of them. We, on the other hand, are beings for-themselves, in that we spend our time developing conscious ideas about ourselves and all the in-itselves. While I obsess about macarons, they don’t even know I exist; they exist independently of whatever it is I try to do.
So, macarons and everything else that isn’t people are Being, and we are Nothingness in that we keep forming ourselves and the world around us from our conceptions of everything that is in-itself. Sartre says we are Nothingness because the for-itself is “a being that distinguishes itself by not being the world or that of which it is conscious” (quote from Philosophy Now).
Again, if you want to skip to the part about the macarons, you can do so now.
The for-itself is free to become whatever it chooses through its own actions; it has total freedom to refashion itself, break free from its past and from all social conventionality if it chooses – as in, “Hey, I can make macarons!” However, with the freedom to act comes total responsibility, hence, freedom comes with the anguish of total responsibility, since Sartre thinks we ultimately cannot handle this freedom/responsibility. As a result, he says, we frequently engage in bad faith to pretend that we aren’t really responsible for our problems, e.g., I can blame the oven for my footless macarons, but either I’m doing something wrong, or, if I’m doing everything right but the oven doesn’t work properly, I have to figure out how to work around the oven’s deficiencies or find another oven. The oven simply is in-itself; it cannot be to blame for or responsible for anything, even though it regularly runs 25° C hotter than what I set it for, and then only after I put the tray in.
In a complicated twist, to even say that I am a macaron-baker is bad faith, according to Sartre, because I am simply “playing” at being a macaron-baker: in an hour I could be doing something else. I can never be a macaron-baker in-itself. More broadly, every time any of us attempts to “be” something rather than only attempting to “become” something, we act in bad faith, since we’re trying to be something that we can never be.
And the book only gets more depressing from there, once we get into our role as being-for-Others and the objectification it implies. Still, Sartre rightly says through the character Garcin in his play No Exit that “Hell is other people!” What he doesn’t mention is that all the characters in the play work in the same macaron factory. And with that …
For macaron shells:
For lemon buttercream:
Everything goes together in the typical manner, but I notice that the batter never seems to get quite runny enough. After I pipe it (and then scrape it back into the bowl, beat it another 20 times, and pipe it again), the shells don’t spread out properly and there are still small tails on the shells left from the piping bag. I can see undissolved beads of sugar in the batter surface and, interestingly, the sugar in-itself does not dissolve in the lemon buttercream either.
The results are sadly predictable, but, as Sartre himself might have said, “It is … senseless to think of complaining since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or how our macarons turn out. … I bake, that is all, and I find it nauseating.” Hell is macarons.
Next: some slightly more cheerful French philosophy.