For the following two weeks, while I am in France, I am going to try a new pastry. Every. Single. Day.
In case you haven’t memorized your multiplication tables yet (don’t worry, I haven’t either), that’s fourteen pastries. Is that a lot? Honestly, I would be eating that many pastries—or more—anyway, so I might as well get something out of it besides an empty wallet and a gourmet French dessert baby kicking at my stomach.
So what is culturally significant about fourteen variations of dark, rich, chocolate, flaky dough, and vanilla beans? I plan on finding out, one bite at a time.
Read the entire series here.
I was bound to not like one of the pastries I tried. I just didn’t think that it would happen so soon.
I would like to formally apologize to all of the people of France. I tried. I really did. I’m just not all about meringue.
Meringue is essentially whipped egg whites and sugar, with other ingredients added for different flavors and densities. Mine was coffee flavored, I think, but it didn’t taste much like coffee.
The meringues really appealed to me this morning, big and puffy and cloudlike, stacked on top of each other in a bakery case that I pass by everyday on my walk to school. They looked light and airy, and they were. They looked sweet, and they were. But they felt and tasted like that astronaut ice cream you can buy in the gift shops of science museums.
It was what I imagine eating a fossil is like. Gritty, stale, disintegrating in my hands. And it was huge. Not all meringues are as big as mine was, and for good reason. It was hard to get two bites in, let alone the dozens that I would need to finish that chalky, monstrous thing.
Of course, unlike the last two editions of Daily Pastry, I didn’t immediately run a train on the meringue and therefore got a picture of my own:
So who thought this was a good idea? The claim is that the meringue is actually of Swiss origin, invented in the village of Meringen, which is how it got its name, and then improved upon by the Italian chef named Gasparini. However, even Gasparini’s origins are debated, and the Oxford English Dictionary cites that the word “meringue” is French but still of unknown origin.
The word itself was first recorded in a cookbook in 1692 by a French chef called François Massialot. He served as chef de cuisine, or personal chef, to several historically significant figures. He wasn’t too humble about this, either. In the preface to one of his cookbooks, he describes himself as, “a cook who dares to qualify himself royal, and it is not without cause, for the meals which he describes… have all been served at court or in the house of princes, and of people of the first rank.
There are also examples of pastries extremely similar to meringue in early seventeenth century gastronomic literature, although they are referred to as “white biskit bread” and “pets” in these sources. In the Loire Valley of France, which happens to be where I am right now, they are still called “pets” because of their light fluffiness.
You won’t believe what a pet is though. I sure didn’t when I looked that one up in French Google Translate. For lack of a better word, pet in French means “fart.” So, yes. It is official. I have eaten a fart. And, no, I did not like it.