Friday, 11 January 2013

In which marzipan is oddly divisive



Marmite is always feted as the “love it or hate it” ingredient, which I’ve always found to be an inaccuracy. Whilst there are definitely people who won’t touch the stuff, I’m yet to find someone who thinks it’s the bee’s knees, and the category which Marmite marketing claims doesn’t exist – those who have no strong feelings either way – is far larger than any alternative.

There is one thing, on the other hand, that seems to provoke strong feelings in everyone. And for a foodstuff apparently so innocuous, marzipan is bizarrely divisive. 

This Christmas, just like the last few, Pa Blonde baked his little heart out. Since semi-retiring, he has Discovered Cooking, the result of which is that almost everyone my parents know is, come mid-December, in receipt of a Christmas cake (this year there was even one spare one that was raffled off, with the proceeds donated to church funds).

As such, The Writer and I have half a very large Christmas cake sitting on our kitchen side. The reason that there’s still half of it when we’re approaching the mid-point of January and I’ve already donated a large slab to The Spectator, is that TW doesn’t like marzipan.

The man eats almost anything – writing this, I’m struggling to think of anything that he refuses to eat, other than tofu. He also has an exceptionally sweet tooth, meaning that cakes, cookies and any sort of sugar-heavy baked good in our house has the life expectancy of a fruit fly with congestive heart failure. And despite the fact that he’ll eat almonds, drink Amaretto, or wolf down several of late Granny Blonde’s Bakewell slices in a single sitting, marzipan is something he won’t touch.

So, given the generous layer that’s applied under the equally generous layer of royal icing on top of Pa Blonde’s so-boozy-you-can-get-drunk-by-sniffing-it Christmas cake (containing rum, brandy, cherry brandy AND port this year), it’s down to me to work my way through it. As I said, it’s going slowly.

But TW’s not the only one that dislikes the stuff. Younger Sister feels so strongly about it that her Christmas cake, somewhat controversially, has butter icing on instead; and at least two thirds of my colleagues recoiled in horror when I said I’m a fan during a discussion about Christmas foods back in December.

Personally, I love marzipan, and the thicker the layer on the Christmas cake – or, as Pa Blonde also made this Christmas, the Fraisier cake – the better. And there is little more delicious as a mid-afternoon treat with a cuppa than one of those marzipan Ritter Sports. Or marzipan fruits. Or BATTENBURG – truly a prince of cakes.

And I’m not alone: there was one girl in my form at school who loved the stuff so much that she’d eat it by taking bites straight from a block. Which isn’t necessarily the level of almond appreciation we’re all after, given, but it goes to show the stuff has its fans.

12 comments:

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I'm totally with TW on this. Can't stand the stuff. Ruins cakes, and even worse when it's mistaken for icing. Bleeeuggrrrhhhhhh

Blonde said...

PDEWYMO: But it's SO delicious! I don't understand the prolific levels of marzipan hatred.

Samuel Palin said...

Weirder still, I've met people who swear blind they like amaretto and almonds themselves, but hate marzipan.

Your comment about Marmite is fair, though I personally love the stuff and consume it voraciously. They're exploiting what in psychology is called a confirmation bias: people bring to mind examples that fit the statement.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Putting butter icing on a Christmas cake should be a capital offence. If you hate marzipan, go 'Dundee-style': dried fruits and nuts on top.

With a spare minute I'd said...

I love it too! Although definitely not to the point of eating straight from the block. May even have to make a battenburg today as I think there's a block of marzipan in the cupboard. Thanks for the prompt.

Bess O said...

The YM's mother and I are big fans (I made her marzipan chocolates to suck up) - but my own mother nearly vomited when she saw I'd used marzipan in her kitchen. More for me...

Blonde said...

Samuel Palin: Butter icing on Christmas cake SHOULD be a capital offence. It's an argument I make every year. I'm never listened to. SIGH.

WASM: Oooh, that is an excellent use of a Friday. Save me a slice, would you?

Bess: Well that can only be a good thing, as far as I'm concerned.

Andrea said...

I loathe marzipan, almonds, amaretto, cherry bakewells etc etc. A small amount of ground almonds in a recipe is acceptable for texture as long as it's not enough to taste.

Christmas cake MUST have royal icing though so I simply take the cake away from the marzipan/icing and pick the marzipan off. When eating Stollen someone else gets a bonus* lump of marzipan from my piece.

*not sure what they did wrong in a past life to deserve it though!

Blonde said...

Andrea: You see, you are at least consistent (if, I would argue, wrong). With you on the royal icing on Christmas cake.

Foodycat said...

Apparently amaretto doesn't actually have almonds in it. But still, totally inconsistent! I like marzipan myself and I think your dad's Christmas cake sounds all sounds of awesome.

Kate said...

Mmmmmm - marzipan. I confess to eating chunks from the block too, but it's specially wonderful when combined with strong alcohol + dark chocolate. It's great that not everyone likes it - more for us fans!!

Martin said...

Marzipan, love the stuff. Used to make marzipan fruits when younger, mixing a small ball of marzipan with food colouring and shaping into, say, a strawberry, before decorating with black sesame seeds and a sprig of mint.

In hindsight, I think the reason I don't have a sweet tooth any more is because it was drowned when I was younger.

Blonde said...

Foodycat: Doesn't it?! You learn something new every day.

Kate: Well that is true. I like the positive thinking!

Martin: YES! I used to make those with Granny Blonde. Dyed fingers agogo.

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