Faraway, so close
Patisserie is the time spent over a pot with water and sugar, waiting patiently for the mixture to reach 118º C. Patisserie are the seconds counted over the mixer until the meringue is simply just right. It is the obsession that pushes you towards perfection, the knowledge to understand the difference and the love that drives and sustains your effort.
It is the soft butter, the sizzling hot cream over cold chocolate, the orange zest that colors the sugar, the wine that becomes syrup, the caramelized nuts, the fresh hot praline, the freshly cut spearmint, the aromatic and dazzling vanilla.
It is both a sprint and marathon run.
Beside all the above, patisserie also represented the light that offered me personally and my husband, Kostas Tsapogas, hope during the hardest and most desperate time of our lives, when we, both being journalists for many years at “Eleftherotypia”, found ourselves unemployed for 2.5 years.
We have always dreamt of living in France. We would buy a farm near Toulouse, we would cultivate the fields and open a small Patisserie. That’s why, two years before the newspaper, where we used to work, officially closed down, I took up Patisserie lessons, aiming to be ready to support our new life in a new country with a new job, when the right time would come.
I always believed that freedom means having choices. And, no matter when you might use them, you must first create them. So, every evening, for two years, just after work, I was attending five-hours patisserie courses at a private institution and later I kept practicing the recipes I had learnt.
And suddenly, this alternative created for the future, seemed as the only “choice” for the present, the only way out. There is nothing more certain than an absolute turnover…
“I will be the Godmother at a christening ceremony soon. Would you feel like catering for the pastries?” my friend Elisa asked me one day. Did I ever want! One year doing nothing was more than I could stand. I offered three suggestions and they chose macarons. “That’s nice”, I thought. “Easy enough”. I had recently been taught how to prepare them. Little did I imagine that it would have taken me a whole year, until I could manage to keep the numbers tight: macarons put into the oven equal those that finally come out of it…
The French say that the macaron is the sweet that makes your hair turn white. They have forgotten to add that the macaron also transforms a well behaved lady to a …sailor. Or that it could make you burst into tears at 4 am, while staring at an oven door, desperately begging the macaron, itself, to tell you what you are doing wrong, why these sweet devils burst out, or they decide to rise at one side only, they deny their “feet”, become full of bubbles or lose their shape.
I came to realize, after intensively seeking for guidance and live aid, after reading as many books as I could, watching as many videos as I could absorb, or even learning by heart infinite number of tips, that nothing could teach me better than the failure itself and actually one failure after the other. And these series of failures finally make you fall so much in love with macarons, dedicate yourself to them and admit that the more disproportionate your efforts are regarding their size, the more it’s worth it.
When I started feeling quite familiar with the procedure, it was the right time to experiment with different tastes and flavors. I always believed in specialization, so, as I mentioned before, macarons would serve me as one of many solutions I had in mind in order to make a future living in France. But for a foreigner to sell macarons to native French is something like a German coming to Greece selling olive oil for a living. And then, what if the macarons had an original Greek taste? It’s easier to adapt a traditional recipee, something one has grown up with, instead of creating and offering a completely new taste experience. So the idea of macarons with Greek flavors was born and came to life.
Two years after the moment our life stopped being the one we had known and learnt to live with, I can definitely say that dedication and commitment to your personal goal, regardless how “small” or “insignificant” this goal could seem, the will to face any difficulties and the certainty that at the end you will make it (and I did make it), kept me going on during difficult times.
Perhaps we haven’t reached France yet, as we didn’t take the motorway but rather the small country roads, full of turns and puddles. It will certainly take longer but the journey is better, and that’s what it counts at the end of the day. Don’t you agree?