Two very different cookies, two very different appearances, flavors, and recipes, but with a remarkably similar name—so what gives?
Let’s start with the basics: A macaron (pronounced mack-a-rohn) is a confection made up of two round, flat, almond-flour-based cookies, sandwiching an emulsified filling like ganache or jam. Any variation in color or flavor is simply a variation of the filling, plus some food coloring. A macaroon (two o’s; pronounced mack-a-rOOn) is an American mounded cookie made with shredded coconut, and often dipped in chocolate. Two very different cookies, two very different appearances, flavors, and recipes, but with a remarkably similar name—so what gives? We wondered the very same thing, and when we went in pursuit of the answer, we found that the two cookies actually have much in common, including a multi-national, multi-generational history, some French monks, and—wait for it—anal secretions.
NOTE: In his fantastic article about the etymology of the macaron, Stanford Linguistics and Computer Science professor Dan Jurafsky dives deep into the history of these two cookies, and also explores how the root words may connect them to that venerable dance tradition of the 90s, the Macarena. Needless to say, Jurafsky is the leading expert on the topic, and when you're done looking at our cat-anus doodles, you should check out his James Beard–nominated book, The Language of Food. All hail Jurafsky!