Alicia Kennedy: On Madeleines
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I’m thrilled to have Alicia Kennedy with us this week! I suspect many of you are already familiar with her work in From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, an always-effervescent and incisive newsletter on food, culture, and politics, which was, if I’m remembering correctly, the first substack I ever subscribed to! :) Recently, Alicia completed a lecture series there on culinary tourism, and has recently written on topics as ranging as the foodie satire film The Menu, martinis, and brothers, grief, and The Bear. Who better to write on Proust’s famed madeleine, and food writing vis-à-vis the culinary fascinations of La recherche? A brief preview follows, with Alicia’s full essay below the paywall. Next weekend, I’ll share Alicia’s recipe (by way of Julia Child’s) for cardamom-rose madeleines, and be documenting my own attempt(s) in the kitchen … À bientôt! -Jamie
The madeleine was almost not a madeleine at all, but of course, it would have to be a pastry so singular and specific. A dreamy seashell shape, the texture of a butter cake, the snacking lightness of a cookie: no other pastry could have had such a hold on the human consciousness for over a hundred years. The madeleine is delicate and inviting; it’s an ideal afternoon treat for daydreaming.
“Proust’s Madeleine,” too, is such a tight evocative phrase. Without opening up Swann’s Way, the first book in In Search of Lost Time, one knows about this famed cookie and its use in describing a portal to the author’s past, which is, he writes, “hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect.” His own would of course be revealed in the next paragraph, through a madeleine dipped in warm tea.
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