We developed an Olympic routine at my apartment. "Vigilance," we called it. Watch every event without flipping, commentators unmuted, no abandoning ship during commercials. Olympic advertising is high-powered, though it doesn't get the same hype as Super Bowl fare. The Super Bowl deals in overblown consumerism and bravado for one night; the Olympics sustains the pitch for patriotism and celebrating the superhuman for weeks. And I'm starting to think these ads do America a great service. Their flag-waving baked into motivational videos topped with big earnest dollops of genuine good feeling for humanity is pure propaganda. Every one is a 30- or 60-second pep talk for Americans.
I always enjoy the games from a distance, but this felt personal. Ryan Lochte fins across a coruscating Atlantic because AT&T offers connections on par with the fastest example of a species not intended to swim. Proctor & Gamble gives a long tribute to mothers, because even Olympic gymnasts have moms. Nike brings it back to normal people with the rhythmic interminable thumping of a fat kid's sneakers on a country highway. The message: greatness is not just at the Olympic games. "Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We're all capable of it."
By the end of the broadcast the ads had won me over. It made sense. So what if I'd been brainwashed? I was pumped. I rushed into the kitchen: the moment to bring out the almond flour was at hand. My roommates pointed out that it was 1 AM. I roared, "America is about a spirit of greatness. If you don't have that get out of the kitchen." I was ready to attempt my first ever batch of French macarons.
I assembled the ingredients. Beat the egg whites to peaks by hand, remembering, too late, the electric beater in the cabinet. I didn't care! Americans don't fuss over parchment paper! Grease that aluminum foil; your forefathers intended it! Convert temperatures from °C to °F? Not in my America!
OK, that last part was an oversight, and not just because we do indeed use Fahrenheit. The subsequent and very patriotic output failed to attain perfection. These cookies were deflated, missing the famous circle of crustiness known as feet. But my spirit remained unbroken—they were light and squishy and firm on top, so I filled them with ganache and went to bed happy. I was in America. In America we are pleased to have made sandwich cookies instead of macarons. In America we take pride in being humbled if we fall short of greatness, so later we can win bigger.
A full week passed. I baked. This time I used the hand beater, laid down fancy parchment paper, heated the oven to 320°F instead of 160°F, and even used a veritable pastry bag—earlier I'd used a vegetable bag punctured with a winescrew to pipe the cookies onto a tray. (America!) The turnaround was quick. Fifteen minutes later I had glory: every single one stuck the landing like a champ. I was Ryan Lochte, I was the fat kid, and I had fucking nailed it. "This pimp is at the top of Mount Olympus / Ready for the World's game, this is my Olympics." It was my time. My trademark key lime pie met it's aristocratic cousin: the key lime macaron. Watch out Reader staff, the snack fairy just upped her dessert game.