Ever since I started looking at food blogs and writing my own, I've been impressed with the incredible skill and dedication of so many home cooks out there. I'm consistently blown away by the complicated recipes people will bravely undertake and then write about, revealing every misstep along with each success. I've read about people curing bacon, making puff pastry, and trying their hand at fresh ricotta. So many cooks seem undaunted by things I see as obstacles: candy thermometers, cooking things under bricks, yeast. As a rule, I pretty much avoid anything that requires deboning or cheesecloth.
I guess we draw lines arbitrarily. Why will I make crackers from scratch but refuse to bake bread? One can't be that much harder than the other, just a bit more time-consuming. I suppose as deep as my love for cooking may run, so runs my laziness, and it's randomly applied. There are certain things I'm just not interested in making by hand.
While much of this can be attributed to personality, it's also a result of where I live. In San Francisco, there's no reason to make your own dim sum. That's why we have Yank Sing, and any number of alternatives in Chinatown and the Richmond. For good ramen, I can roll down my hill to Hotei in the Sunset. For excellent ramen, I can roll a little further to Tanpopo in Japantown. And then there's the matter of the little French macarons that have become so popular in the last year.
I've seen many food bloggers attempt these delightful little cookies with varying success. Every time I see a photo of a homemade macaron, I feel a surge of admiration for the person's fortitude. I know macarons can be moody little bastards, and can turn out entirely differently depending on how humid it is, whether the egg whites were properly aged, or if the almonds were ground finely enough. It seems that just looking at the little suckers the wrong way can doom you: a hopeful, beseeching glance can send these sweet, chewy mouthfuls into an angry fit, rendering them flat and gummy.
I love these cookies too. But I will never make them. I'm just not determined enough.
Also, and perhaps the more important reason, is because five blocks from our house is Boulange de Cole, where periodically I'll pick up a few macarons on the way home from work. I am particularly fond of their passionfruit ones. Or because from work I can walk to Paulette in Hayes Valley, which packs the macarons in slender, brightly-colored boxes. Buying macarons from Paulette makes me feel chic and French, like Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
And because there's Miette in the Ferry Building, where the husband stopped the other day after a few errands.
We ate them after dinner, one after the other, silent little termites making our way through the bag. I'm not sure toiling over these myself could equal the pleasure I felt in opening Miette's little cellophane bag to see the delicate macarons carefully lined up so as not to crush each other, but I'm positive it could not equal the happiness I felt that the husband surprised me with them on a plain old Wednesday night.