The first day of spring marked not only free Rita’s Water Ice Day, but National Macaron Day as well. Mon Dieu! While macaron aficionados were celebrating le petit gâteau français, some of us were staring into the coconut eyes of a totally different cookie. Beginning next Friday, macaroons (two ‘o’s, not one,) will grace many Seder tables. In my place of work, macaroons are a hot item, with data telling me that 163 dozen left the building last year. I guestimate that this year, roughly 200 dozen of the coconut confections will be scooped, baked, and drizzled with chocolate. This preliminary math leads to a more troubling word problem. If 2,400 macaroons are scheduled to exit the bakery next weekend, how many pounds of coconut need to enter the bakery this week? How much desiccated and snowflake coconut is enough without being too much? I suppose it all depends on what time Elijah’s train leaves the Maplewood station and whether or not it stops in Hoboken or New York Penn.
It is difficult to mentally prepare oneself for spring holidays in the wake of recent Nor’easters. Clearing mountains of snow from the driveway while trying to avoid patches of black ice conflicts with the slightest hint of spring fever. Personally, until the first stalks of rhubarb cross my kitchen countertop, I will continue to seek comfort in dark chocolate and warm spirits. Recently inspired by a Maple Sugar Festival in Toronto, I also caught a glimpse of how Canadians embrace March. We could all take a lesson.
The contradiction of seasons is clearly visible at Toronto’s Sugar Beach. Situated adjacent to the Redpath Sugar Factory, (think Canada’s version of Domino) the sand beach is spiked with cotton-candy pink umbrellas. The 2-acre park was once a parking lot in a former industrial area. Today, it serves as a public event space and waterfront refuge. Before my visit to Sugar Beach, I had never witnessed the making of maple taffy, nor experienced a highly competitive battle between chainsaw ice carvers. I was also woefully unaware that pure maple syrup teamed with cream filling and stuffed inside a cannoli shell could taste so exquisite. Holy Cannoli, indeed.
Somehow, winter seems better suited to Canada. The snow feels less threatening, more appropriate. Bakeries and bars are welcoming, their offerings as stunning as fine art. I was also happy to note that Canadian bakers are generous with the butter and the maple. It is also apparent that despite the frigid temps, Canadians remain passionate about ice cream; an endearing quality. So passionate in fact, that our small group opted out of standing in line on a frozen sidewalk, deciding instead to grab two quarts of Bang-Bang ice cream to go.
Walking back to Sibling Sister’s digs on a dusky March evening, the local Cadbury Chocolate factory was softly illuminated. Unable to see the Oompa Loompas at work behind the smoky windows, one could only imagine a dedicated team getting a jumpstart on their famous Cream Eggs.
When holidays collide, as they will next week, the best defense is a well-calculated offense. Determining just how much coconut will be needed to feed the macaroon beast is a challenge. Almost as challenging as a snowstorm at the bunny-tail end of March.