Sunday, December 9, 2012


   The Book of the Week is titled Marzipan. Marzipan is a gently sweetened confection made of almond paste, sugar and honey. It is often sculpted into tiny fruits and vegetables, lightly tinted with food coloring to resemble pears, apples, bananas and oranges. The book Marzipan is a soft cover Italian longstitch book with pastel marbling inks swirling across the cover and pastepaper on the fore-edging and inside the cover.
A macrame strap holds the sweet little book closed
   One year, when my little daughter was deep in the throes of tulle and satin and rehearsals for The Nutcracker Ballet at the local ballet school, she asked me, what is marzipan? I showed her some of the little candies sold at the grocery store and we bought a box to have for Christmas day. Now, whenever I see the word marzipan... I think of The Nutcracker Ballet! ...and my 10-year old daughter.

A marzipan Christmas tree 
   In the Nutcracker story by T. A. Hoffman, marzipan is mentioned as part of a wonderful imaginary toy brought by Godfather Drosselmeier..

Pastepaper and marbled paper inside Marzipan

    "Whenever he came, he had something in his pocket for the children⎯now a little man who would roll his eyes and bow in a most comical way, now a box that a little bird would hop out of, now something else. But every year at Christmas he took great pains to turn out a work of wonderful artistry, so precious that the children's parents always put it away in a safe place.
   "Oh," Marie cried out, "what do you think Godfather Drosselmeier has made for us?"
   Fritz said it was sure to be a fortress, with all kinds of soldiers marching up and down and drilling, and then other soldiers would come and try to get in, but the brave defenders would fire their guns, which would boom and thunder wonderfully.
   "No, no," Marie interrupted. "Godfather Drosselmeier said something to me about a beautiful garden with a big lake in it and lovely swans with golden necklaces swimming around on it and singing the most beautiful songs. And then a little girl comes across the garden to the lake and calls the swans and feeds them marzipan." -excerpt from The Nutcracker by T. A. Hoffman

Creamy pastepaper and a wintry image from stamps.. 
In the Raleigh area, the Carolina Ballet puts on a magnificent performance of The Nutcracker every year. I have seen it many times and it is always a delight. Order tickets for The Nutcracker and read more about the Carolina Ballet at

   Growing up in the south, marzipan was not a traditional holiday dessert in our family. At my Grandmother's Christmas Day table we traditionally had three or four choices of the following... Coconut Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Pound Cake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Meringue Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, Chess Pie, Pecan Pie, Pecan Chess Pie, Lemon Chess Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Chocolate Bon Bons, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Hershey's Kiss Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, Kris Cringles, Dolly Bars, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies... Bananna Pudding..and on and on.. but no marzipan. Until the year my daughter first began to dance in The Nutcracker Ballet...

   Holiday baking is such a tradition and food is such a rite of communion... what are your family traditions for sweets? What stories come from these? What are the recipes? Imagine your wonderful holiday sweet pastry sideboard... the colors, the patterns, the aromas, and the deliciousness of all that sugar and butter! and then perhaps write about it in a book.