"The real Parisien does not like Paris but he cannot live somewhere else." Alphonse Karr
In February I went skying with my friends from Marseille. When passing by at Ladurée at Paris Orly, I got the idea to bring my friend a Parisian gift. As an urban French girl she would surely appreciate a little box of macarons. For those of you who don't know what macarons are: French macarons are thin, flavorful meringue cookies that are sandwiched together with some kind of filling. The meringues are what make the cookies unique. In Marseille, where I was living over the last 2,5 years, macarons are not that iconic as they use to be in Paris. This is why I never really came in touch with them. To be honest, I'm not a macaron connoisseur at all. Having had one hour left at the airport, it was time to fill missing gaps in macaron science.
All I knew was that Ladurée is considered THE macaron temple. Entering this Tiffany & co. look-alike store disguised as a bakery from the baroque era, I contemplated their huge pâtisserie assortment. Wahou. I was pretty amazed by all the colors and the diversity and beauty of the pastries. Unfortunately, I couldn't stare as long as I wanted since the sales lady already rolled her eyes waiting for me to choose. At 8 o'clock in the morning, there was of course no line. She was a typical Parisian seller wanting you to feel guilty for having entered the store and make her work. I had to order real quick:
Me: Bonjour. Je voudrais 6 macarons, s'il vous plaît.
Ladurée sales lady: Cela vous fera 17 €. Vous désirez autre chose?
Ok. Stop. My internal warning clock rang. Seeing this situation through my reasonable German eyes, 17€ for 6 tiny little macarons is a rip-off. That's 1/4 of the price I payed for my flight ticket to Marseille. For 17€ I could already fly to Barcelona with a low-cost airline.
The price quality ratio is how you measure the value of a good experience in Germany. We need to say we made a good deal in order to be happy. You know, it was us who invented hard-discounters like Aldi and Lidl because we are convinced that paying a low price and receiving good quality is not a contradiction . My experience at Ladurée was as far from this equation as sparkling wine from Champagne. Dear German reader, if you prefer eating generous sized pastries from the Bäcker you trust, macarons are definitely not for you. Just skip to my next blog post.
Still astonished to pay 17€, I took a step backwards and had a closer look on the price tags, wondering whether or not I'm entered accidentally a Tiffany & co boutique. Maybe they recently changed their design or opened a concept store "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or so.
The Macaron - Analogy
This was the very moment when I came up with the Macaron - analogy: The concept of macarons can be seen as a symbol of the typical Parisian lifestyle: You pay too much for getting too little. You pay 1000€/month rent for a 15m2 shitty apartment on the 5th floor without an elevator and no toilet. Same thing. Everything in Paris is based on the macaron idea and it is the only way you can make Parisians buy your products. Michel & Augustin, for example, another cookie brand admired by 30-something Parisians. You get 3 cookies in 1 package but you pay as much as for 10 cookies from an average brand. The taste may be slightly better but it does not justify the price gap. Why people are ready to pay so much for their petit plaisirs? I could write an entire article about this phenomena. Long story short, according to my German reasoning it is because they don't have cars. An average Parisian takes the metro which comes less cheaper than driving a car (like Germans). Thus, they can spend a lot more on food. Expensive food. This is the way they use to claim status. Voilà!
Back to my poor Ladurée shopping experience. I thanked the sales lady for her kind help and advice and finally left the store without buying anything. A view steps further I stumbled upon La Maison du Chocolat where I found nearly the same assortment of macarons but less overpriced. Additionally, the sales personnel was more pleasant. They drew my attention to Champagne macarons. They knew how to get me. I finally paid 12€ for 6 macarons which my mother never would have done but these are the long-term effects of exposure to Parisian culture. I start accepting the the idea of overcharging. I makes you appreciate things more actually.
La Maison du Chocolat gave their macarons a glamorous makeover by filling them with a Champagne-infused buttercream. The vanilla flavor of the meringue perfectly matches with the Champagne taste. For the Macaronivore among you, check- out the mouthwatering DIY recipe from eatswellwithothers.com. As soon as I move into my new apartment endowed with a proper kitchen and an oven I'll try it out. 1000€ rent, but no oven. Vive Paris!
From Paris with Champagne love.
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