Sunday, November 3, 2013

Did you know the macaron is actually MiddleEastern, not French in origin?

 Myself, always having figured macarons only came from Paris, was surprised to learn via the internet sleuthing of Pomegranate Bitter  that macarons actually have a middleEastern origin. Facinating, oui?

This article, which I am going to quote word for word, gives the history

"The story begins in the year 827—so bear with me—when Arab troops from Ifriqiya (modern Tunisia) landed in Sicily, establishing a Muslim emirate that introduced many technologies (paper, to replace parchment) and foods (lemons, rice, pistachios) to Europe. The Arabs also brought a rich repertoire of nut-based sweets from the medieval Muslim world, including fālūdhaj and lausinaj, almond-paste candies wrapped in dough, adapted from sweets that the Sassanid Shahs of Persia ate hundreds of years earlier to celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year. Here's a recipe from Charles Perry's translation of the 13th-century Baghdad cookbook Kitāb al-Tabīkh, (The Book of Dishes):
Fālūdhaj: Take a pound of sugar and a third of a pound of almonds and pound them fine together. ... Take a third of a pound of sugar, dissolve it with half an ounce of rose-water on a quiet fire, then take it up. When it has cooled off, throw the pounded sugar and almonds on it and knead them with it. ... [The paste is then wrapped in dough and soaked in sesame oil and rose-water syrup.]
In Sicily (and in Toledo, Spain, another contact point between Muslim and Christian culture) fālūdhaj and lausinaj developed into various desserts, like the almond-paste tarts called marzapane and caliscioni. The 1465 cookbook of Maestro Martino tells us that marzapane was originally a pastry casing filled with a mixture of almond paste, sugar, rose water, and sometimes egg whites. While the modern word marzipan now means the filling, the name originally described the casing; marzapane comes from the Arabic word mauthaban that meant the jars the candy came in. Caliscioni was a tart made by layering almond paste over a layer of sweet dough made with sugar and rose water. the 1500s had spread beyond Sicily to the rest of modern-day Italy and to Spain, France, and England. In 1552, in a list of fantastical desserts in Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, we find hard written evidence that the word macaron meant a dessert. Shortly thereafter the name appears in English as macaroon. (Most 16th- and 17th-century French words ending in “-on” are spelled with “–oon” when borrowed into English, like balloon, cartoon, platoon.) What did this treat taste like? Martha Washington's BOOKE of COOKERY, a handwritten cookbook that the first First Lady’s family had brought to the New World, contains the first known recipe. It was probably written sometime in the early 1600s (notice the archaic spelling)"
So there you have it. Who would have thought, but this little food without whom Paris would not be the same, came from Baghdad, Iraq, originally.

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