13 March 2014


I will be the first to admit that I don’t really know what marzipan is, but here is what I do know: I know that it’s sometimes hidden inside of what would otherwise be delicious chocolates; I know that it’s sculpted into elaborate cake decorations; I know that Hungary has dedicated an entire museum to it; and I know that it is made of a ground almond paste, with probably a few other ingredients like sugar and, heaven forbid, coconut.*

Based on this limited yet totally sufficient body of knowledge, I can conclusively say that while I will never eat marzipan, I am kind of drawn to the sculpted figurines.  And herein lies the problem: I don’t particularly like it when I am attracted to one aspect of a food (usually its form) by repulsed by another (usually its taste, or function**). 

Binaries typically provide a great and totally reliable lens through which to view the world, they provide structure and meaning in our lives, and most importantly, they can be used to unpack our troubling relationship with marzipan.  One way to apply the system of binaries is to consider the binary of function/form (even though “form/function” sounds better, I purposely put function before form so you can see how it’s privileged over form).  See how that worked?  Easy as pie!  These days it’s very en vogue to deconstruct binaries—or at least to talk about it a lot—but what these genderqueers don’t realize is that binaries are one of the most useful tools at our disposal when faced with a troublesome entity like marzipan.  If you want to deconstruct something, deconstruct some marzipan and throw out that almond paste.
Ugh. I don't even care about this picture. This entire post fell apart for me in a really big way, actually. If I didn't
value quantity so much more than quality, I definitely would not be posting it at all.

Even though we’ve already agreed that function eclipses form, it’s still worth talking about these confectionary creations because some of them are really elaborate.  It’s possible that I am so fascinated by marzipan sculptures because they come pretty close to that cartoon food realm that I am so enamoured by.  They’re not quite there only because they kind of remind me of claymation, which I am not really into.  They also kind of remind me of those little toys or figurines… I don’t know what they’re called or even how to describe them.  A lot of girls had them when I was little.  They were usually a cute puppy dog and were coated in a soft fuzz.  They also had a weird smell to them, always.  Does anyone know what I am talking about?  I hate those things and have always found them somewhat nauseating. Oh! Here’s a link to them! They are disgusting.

Ugh.  Okay.  Well, that tangent just made it more difficult for me to explain why I do kind of like marzipan aesthetically.  I guess maybe it has something to do with the craftsmanship.  I have no idea how they’re made, but I like to imagine it’s a process similar to blowing glass, which is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen in my life. What I might be realizing through the process of writing this is that I actually do not like marzipan in any capacity. The idea of eating it is, of course, revolting. It must be way too sweet and have grains of sugar and also it’s almond paste. I also don’t understand what happens to a large marzipan sculpture once it has serve its purpose. Surely no one is going to eat 10lbs of marzipan. Do Play-Dough rules apply? Do you just try to separate the colours as best you can and stuff it back into little canisters for next time? I don’t understand. Everything about marzipan seems disgusting and deceiving and wasteful.

Worth mentioning is that at some point in the recent past, there was a rumour of marzipan-made  tiny babies circulating around the internet.  I have no idea how I missed this.  Although it was all a hoax, the truth is perhaps even stranger than fiction: these fit-in-your-palm sculpted newborns are actually created by a Powell River-based artist and sell for over $100, and worse yet, people actually buy these things.  At least one person in this world must have paid money for one of these little gremlins!  Anyway, it got to be enough of a problem that the woman had to include the question of whether or not these things are made from marzipan into her FAQ section.  Even though this marzipan baby myth was debunked, the threat remains.  Marzipan sculpture technique is progressing so rapidly that I fear that one day these will be a reality, and someone will pay money to adorn their baby shower cake with.

Sorry you guys, didn't mean to get up your hopes,
But that miniature basket of fruit is a mazipan-hoax.
Don't gobble up that decorative cake topping in such haste!
Don't you know that it's actually made of almond-paste?

*Update: apparently there is no coconut in marzipan, but if there was some, I really would not be surprised.  The same kinds of people who are into marzipan are probably into shredded coconut.  I have no basis for that accusation, but I’m still pretty certain it’s true.

**One might argue that the function of a food is nourishment, but when you’re dealing with marzipan… come on.

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