A great friend of mine came back from Nancy last weekend, where her parents are living at the moment, with a box of original macaroons under her arm. I was excited on a number of levels: first of all, I didn’t know that macaroons originated in Nancy, France – a medium-sized town to the east of Paris about half way to Strasbourg – and second of all, I didn’t know that real macaroons weren’t the double layered cream-filled cookies I’ve taken as traditional French confectionery for years!
Real (and by real I mean the original) macaroons are actually just the top of the macaroons that we know from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé in Paris. And they only come in one flavor: vanilla. Not chocolate or pistachio, strawberry or coffee. They have the same general porous appearance as modern macaroons, but they are rather thinner and crunchier, and must be kept in the fridge.
The bakery where my friend bought my sample is called Mason des Soeurs Macarons which is known as where the macaroon was created. This particular bakery was founded in 1793 (can you believe that!), just after the last king and queen were taken captive by Revolutionists. Here’s the story:
When Catherine de Vaudémont, daughter of the Duc de Charles III, became the abbesse of Remiremont, she founded in center of Nancy the monastery of the Dames du Saint-Sacrement where eating meat was strictly prohibited. As a result, the Sisters baked a large variety of pastries including the famous Macaroon…
At the time of the décret de suppression des congrégations religieuses (5 Avril 1792), two of the nuns, Sisters Marguerite and Marie-Elisabeth, found refuge with a certain Doctor Gormand, the community doctor near the monastery. In order to sustain themselves, the Sisters continued to fabricate and sell their Macaroons.
Rapidly, the sisters began well-known and were from then on called “Les Soeurs Macarons”. In 1952, the city of Nancy honored les Soeurs Macarons by dedicating the part of the street where the doctor lived to the Sisters and the “Véritable Macaron de Nancy” (the real macaroon).
Ever since, Les Sœurs Macarons has been a local and national treasure.