A Brief History of Macarons

If you’ve ever had a macaron, you remember it well. That first glad moment, biting into the moist cookie-cake, knowing you would never feel the same way again. But where did this edible joy come from?

Contrary to what one might assume, it’s not just a fancy Oreo, and it seems the treat originated in Italy before coming to France, the country most are likely to associate it with. In its earliest conception, it was “made of almonds, egg white, and sugar, and was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside,” according to one source. Most likely brought to France by Catherine de’ Medici, the delightful dessert had been produced in Venetian monasteries since the 8th century, although we wouldn’t recognize it as what we call the macaron today.

After the cookie arrived in France, it began to soar in popularity despite the difficulty involved in its baking process, and only began to take shape as what we’re familiar with near the beginning of the 1800s (source). Pierre Desfontaines appears to be the genius who thought of sticking two of these earlier cookies together using jams and other fillings, although Claude Gerbet also claimed credit (source).

Macaroon (practically a different dessert entirely) popularity in the United States coincided with that of coconut, which took off as a new import from India in the late 1800s. This made coconut macaroons a hit, and by the 1890s, they were a popular “Passover food for [Jewish people], since they don’t contain flour.” Only later did the two-cookies-with-filling style macaron arrive from France, and become the aesthetically pleasing, made-for-Instagram trend that it is today. And yet, many still consider macaroon to be simply a variant spelling of macaron.

The next time you enjoy a macaron, take a moment to remember all the people who brought it to you. Remember not only those who harvested the ingredients that went into it, and the people who baked it, but also, those who fought over who could take the credit for its most vital changes. And remember that the cookie in front of you would not be what it is without the opinions and ideas of hundreds of people spanning centuries.

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