GIRL POWER! PINK SUGARY SWEET MACARONS
Coins zipped securely in my tiny green and white plastic change purse, off I raced to school, excited shivers tingling up and down my spine as I headed into class. Third grade, fourth or fifth, I sat impatiently in my seat, squirming through the Pledge of Allegiance as I waited for my teacher to pull out her order book and call us up to her desk, one by one. I carefully placed my coins, quarters, dimes and nickels, each one so carefully saved and counted again and again, on her desk and handed her the paper on which was listed my order. Books. Lovely, wonderful, magical, delicious books. And then the terrible, excruciating wait would begin, how many hours, days, weeks before I would walk again into that classroom and spy the brown carton sitting on one corner of her desk, before she would hand me my treasures, before I could rush back home, pedaling as fast as my legs would go, and climb into my special reading spot up in the front yard tree or flat on my stomach on a towel in the grass next to the dog or curled up tight in a corner of the sofa and crack open a brand new book and plunge into a new, mysterious, far away world?
Every Sunday night for so many years, we would line up in front of dad as he sat at his wooden desk and count out the coins, placing them in our hands, money for school cafeteria lunches, rewards for good grades on report cards, trusting us to spend our money wisely. We knew that we could keep the money, save it for buying little pleasures, chosen treats, if we woke up extra early every morning and packed our own school lunch, tucking sandwich, fruit, snack cake into a brown paper bag and carrying it off with us to school. The quarters, nickels and dimes often found their way to the candy store, buying jawbreakers and lovely necklaces of tangy sweet pearls in pastel colors, bright red plump wax lips and Pixy Stix or Boston Baked Beans. But most of my money would go for books. In grade school we received a tiny catalogue once a month or so with the choice of books and I spent hours agonizing over my selection, adding up the prices and counting out my coins over and over again, scratching out one choice and replacing it with another. I wanted so many! Or the Bookmobile! Once a year we would arrive in the morning and see that big converted school bus, the Bookmobile, parked on the blacktop, a fascinating place, better than the public library because here whatever we walked out that door with was ours for the keeping, ours forever!
And when I couldn’t purchase a book, own it, call it my own, read it, savor it over and over again, I would borrow one or two. The public library was a fascinating, exciting place full of fabulous riches. Once a week after school or on a Saturday morning I would race to the public library on my bike past the honking gaggle of geese who lived in the tiny canal that fronted the building, I would push open the glass doors and step into this sanctum sanctorum, my Holy of Holies, cool silence only broken by the hum of the air conditioner or the muffled stacking of books, and a peaceful calm would wash over me, the calm of coming home. I would flip through the index cards or run my fingers across a row of spines, looking for colors or titles or anything that would jump out at me, beckon me, urge “Read Me! Read Me!” and I would. I checked out the maximum that they would allow, watch with pride as the Librarian stamped the card that lived in that slot glued to the inside cover of the book and then I would carry them home, my ticket to adventure.
I loved reading. Always have, still do. Books are Aladdin dens of treasures, secret, hidden worlds to delve into, a place where you can become anyone you choose. I always longed to be someone else and looked for like-minded souls in all the little girls I read about: Beezus’ pesky little sister Ramona in her overalls with her red wagon, tagging along behind Henry just when he didn’t need a shadow, getting him into trouble once again; or running away from home with dissatisfied, self-sufficient Claudia and her kid brother Jamie (!), armed only with a pocketful of coins, hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, having that whole fascinating place to themselves at night!; or Fern, Fern, that little girl on that farm saving a tiny piglet from an untimely and unfair demise, raising him and learning all about life and death and friendship. But I really felt a sisterly connection to the Odd Girl Out, those awkward, ungainly girls, the girls who don’t fit in anywhere, the girls who desperately longed for a best friend and a place in the world. Ah, yes, did I know how they felt! And I loved those books the best and read them over and over again: Jane of The Moffats, clever little girl, the third of four children, as was I, raised by a widowed mother during the Depression years, a girl who had to be resourceful, honest and independent all in the ominous shadow of that “For Sale” sign planted in front of their dear, old house. Or Ellen Tebbits, easily embarrassed, constantly teased, getting herself into trouble time after time simply because of her own bungling and clumsiness and simply longing for that one best friend. And Elizabeth, self-proclaimed “loneliest child in the whole U. S. of A.” And, again, searching for the answer to all her troubles by finding a best friend. And she does. A witch.
Clumsiness, awkwardness, loneliness, trouble and outlandish, accidental shenanigans all seem the common thread through these favorite books of mine. Yes, sadly I identified with these girls. Yes, I dreamed of being The Little Princess, living in poverty up in her garret only to be discovered by an Old Indian Gentleman who kindly recovers my riches for me. Or Ramona, powerful in her peskiness, Jane or Ellen all dressed in beautiful pink dancing gowns and whirling gracefully around the stage. Or Elizabeth, finding the most intriguing best friend, solitary, odd and uncommon yet powerful in her knowledge. I escaped into this other world as often as I could, my nose always resolutely buried between the pages of a book and living out my rather strange and simple fantasies. Fantasies neither glamorous nor otherworldly, simply the dreams of a girl who felt herself awkward and out of place and who just wanted a best friend.
I still love these non-heroines, women who swim against the social and cultural tide, women who, despite every effort just simply cannot be other than themselves: clumsy, foot-in-mouth, far from perfect Bridget Jones, too clever for her own good, practical Elizabeth Bennet, quiet, self-effacing, Little Dorrit, tomboy Scout Finch asking too many questions and proper (“steady”), honest Fanny Logan watching the high-spirited, flamboyant cousins swirl around her in a dance of wild abandon and eccentric escapades. Or the elusive, mysterious, sensuous Rosa Saks and her aubergine toenail polish, inspiring men by her beauty and intelligence as easily as she drives them mad. I adore reading of women who go their own way, thumb their noses at the world, women who, we come quickly to understand, are powerful in their intelligence and singularity, women who never let go of their values or morality no matter their debauched, eccentric, wild sisters or friends, no matter they often feel shunned or lost or left behind.
I have created these gorgeous pink macarons in honor of each of these smart women, women with a wicked sense of humor, unusual, unique women. Whether young or less than young, no matter the age they live in, each one of these girls and women still fascinates me to this day, fascinates and inspires, for no matter how clumsy, no matter how unfashionably clever or out of sync somehow with the world in which they live, each of them opens her heart to love and friendship, the understanding of life and death, each one of them, in the end, is loved for who she really is, just as she is. My kind of women, indeed!
And hopefully we all end up with our own Mr. Darcy!
This month’s Mactweets challenge asks us to create a macaron inspired by our favorite childhood book or character. I have created the Girl Power! Macaron inspired by and in honor of the girls and women in these fabulous books, some of my favorites for both young and old (ahem!) alike. A delicate pink (though I must admit I was trying for a bit more pink) shell painted with egg white and dipped in flavored colored sugar filled with bubble gum and candy, melted Malabar or Carambar candies folded into a white chocolate ganache. Sweet and tangy with just something tart about it, a subtle bite, a dash of humor and so much Girl Power!
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
Ellen Tebbits as well as the entire Henry & Beezus series by Beverly Cleary
jennifer, hecate, macbeth, william mckinley, and me, elizabeth and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
GIRL POWER! PINK MACARONS
The shells are made with the same basic recipe I used to make my Chocolate Macarons with Pink Praline Filling, my Blueberry Hibiscus Macarons, my Chocolate Espresso Sea Salt French Kiss Macarons, my Coffee Macarons and my Violet Macarons:
200 g powdered sugar
110 g finely ground blanched almonds
3 large egg whites, about 112 g
30 g granulated sugar
1 tsp powdered food coloring
Click on any one of the links about for full recipe and step-by-step how-to pictures.
Brush the tops and sides of the shells with egg white and immediately dip into colored sugar or candy sugar (like Pixy Stix) until coated. Turn upright and allow to dry.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PINK MALABAR OR CARAMBAR GANACHE
100 ml (3/8 cup) heavy cream
125 g (4 3/8 oz) white chocolate
55 g (2 oz) Carambar candy or Malabar bubble gum*
* Although Mathilde preferred the flavor of the Malabar filling, the bubble gum was extremely difficult to work with, bits staying solid to no avail. It also appeared that in the cooling process some of the melted gum resolidified. It also left bowls and silverware with spots of gum and a greasy film that is impossible to eliminate, at least without a dishwasher. The Carambar, on the other hand, melted beautifully and produced a smooth, creamy filling although it really had to be chilled and even popped into the freezer for some time until it was firm enough to hold.
Simply place the heavy cream and the candy in a small saucepan over a low flame and heat, stirring, until the candy is melted and the liquid is hot. It shouldn’t be allowed to boil.
Chop the chocolate and place in a pyrex, metal or other heatproof bowl. Pour the hot pink cream over chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is smooth and well blended. Allow to cool a bit and then place in the refrigerator until chilled and firm. This may be best done the day before filling your macarons.
Pipe a dot of filling on the bottom shell of each pair of shells and sandwich together. If the filling isn’t quite firm enough just pop the filled macs in the fridge.
These were a bit too sweet for me (but Clem and Mathilde loved them) although eating all of that candy, the tart, flavored sugar, the Carambars, the marshmallows and other candy we had bought for the pictures, reading the bad jokes found inside each Carambar candy and putting on tattoos found inside the bubble gum (though JP took all the best!) brought me back to a joyous place long ago, brought me back to those afternoons in Florida eating candy, admiring my temporary Girl Power tattoos and curling up with a wonderful book!