Moses and Macaroons

Moses and Macaroons

Tonight the Obama family is hosting a Seder, a ritual meal celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the customs of this dinner, such as the compulsory obligations to tell the Exodus story and drink four glasses of wine (oh, the sacrifices …).

One seasonal mystery that puzzles Gentiles is the miraculous appearance of canned Kosher cookies in American supermarkets. Actually, Jews are puzzled by this as well, since the cookies are macaroons made with coconut, chocolate, and other ingredients which do not figure prominently in Old Testament texts.

The origin of the Passover macaroon is shrouded in mystery. Some believe these dense sweets represent desserts hastily assembled by the ancient Israelites, who fled Egyptian bondage by a route devoid of donut shops.

Others maintain that, in the late nineteenth century, secretive rabbinical scholars investigating caves near the Dead Sea uncovered a huge cache of ancient metal cannisters containing sweet, rock-hard, unleavened biscuits. Each spring these prospectors slapped “Kosher for Passover” labels on the cans and exported them as seasonal foodstuffs to a growing community of coreligionists in the Eastern United States, and a tradition was born.

To avoid legal and ethical objections, the origin of these cookies was disguised. Consumers were told that the leathery pastries were baked by Jewish Scotsmen (“MacAroons”) or exiles (“maroons”), or that the cookies were imported from Cameroon or Morocco (in French, le Maroc).

There are other competing theories,  and the Passover meal requires that all must be discussed and debated, especially if there is still some wine left. Christianity, which adopted many ancient Pascal customs, developed a sweet, sticky symbol analogous to macaroons and equally indigestible: Peeps.

Happy holidays.

 

Image (Moses and the Macaroons, after Rembrandt van Rijn) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

 

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12 Responses to “Moses and Macaroons”

  1. jodifur Says:

    Interesting.

  2. Mike Licht Says:

    jodifur Says: Interesting.

    Sorry. I had hoped it was funny.

  3. HL Says:

    Wasn’t Judah Macaroon the freedom fighter associated with Chanukah?

    If there is a Macaroon, shouldn’t there also be a PCaroon?

  4. Mike Licht Says:

    HL wrote: Wasn’t Judah Macaroon the freedom fighter associated with Chanukah?

    Delicatessens on New York’s Broadway have revived the “Brigadoon,” but it’s not really “Kosher for Passover.”

    If there is a Macaroon, shouldn’t there also be a PC-caroon?

    Given concerns about obesity and the economy, many now favor the smaller, cheaper Netroon.

  5. Batya Says:

    Yes, perfectly logical, like eating Haman’s ears a month earlier.

  6. karenresta Says:

    Being half-Jewish/half-Wasp I have to consider the difference of dinner-table conversation opportunities given alternately by the macaroon, or by the Peep.

  7. Wolfsong Diner Says:

    To me, the macaroon is one of the tastes and smells that defines the essence of Pesach. Pop open a can, and you trigger something culturally primal and atavistic. The combined smell of parsley and horseradish does the same thing to me.

    Strange that Manischewitz hasn’t yet come out with parsley and horseradish macaroons.

  8. Mike Licht Says:

    Wolfsong Diner Says: Strange that Manischewitz hasn’t yet come out with parsley and horseradish macaroons.

    The combination of elements may unleash uncontrollable cosmic forces and endanger global safety. I’ll check with EPA and the Department of Energy next week.

  9. ddrucker Says:

    Isn’t it also a shame that no one does any ‘experiments’ on the Internet with Macaroons like these: http://www.peepresearch.org

    I guess since Macaroons aren’t shaped like an animal (except, perhaps, a sea urchin), they don’t get the same amount of sadistic attention. The Peep, instead, is the Mr. Bill of food. The Macaroon is merely the Pringle of cookies.

    BTW, thanks for the comment on my blog as well. :)

  10. Mike Licht Says:

    ddrucker wrote: no one does any ‘experiments’ on the Internet with Macaroons

    I think that’s forbidden by some passage in Leviticus.

  11. Organic Mama Says:

    That WAS funny. Also, true.

    Macaroons are lethal, barbed instruments of torture – certainly after leaving them around forgotten in a dish for a few days past Seder. No one went near these canned vestiges of alterkakker Seders, but my Mom brought some anyway.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog, as well!

  12. Sean Says:

    Nicely done! I’m glad that I’ve had my last macaroon for the next 357 days or so.

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