It all began in a castle. But, this wasn’t your average castle. The romantic façade of this ancient castle, nestled in Gruyères, Switzerland, is home to the Alien cafe, whose menu lists the country’s coveted confectionery delicacy; Swiss meringues. If the incongruent nature of a sci-fi cafe, housed within an ancient castle, wasn’t enough, the crisp, crunchy wonder that New Orleans’ Lord of Meringues, Ehren Abbott’s mouth was met with, in this moment of his trip, sealed the deal.
“I’ve always loved to bake,” Abbott says. “I’ve been baking since I was a child. But, that was the first I was exposed to meringues. I thought, ‘I would like to try this because it’s something new and I have never done it before,’” he shares.
Now, known as the Lord of Meringues to the local community of New Orleanians, Abbott exercises his creative craft in this niche of confectionery chemistry. Navigating the perfect proportions of ingredients to accomplish a plethora of various textures and forms, he immerses himself in the joys of versatility fostered by this multifarious domain of sugar-centric science.
With meringues, one of the reasons Abbott loves them is because, “They can be crunchy, they can be soft, they can be crunchy and soft, they can be chewy, they can be crunchy and chewy,” he says chuckling, “The combinations are endless.” Yet, the Lord of Meringues engages in a meticulous, strategic process, that goes far beyond solely considering the desired crisp and crunch, or lack thereof.
To harmonize the culmination of culinary possibility, through various textures and aesthetics, with the practical reality of the thick humidity that circulates through the swamp-filled city, Abbott works to find that sweet spot. In efforts to prevent moisture from inhibiting the duration of shelf-life, he maximizes his creativity through problem solving processes. He isn’t referred to as the Lord of Meringues solely because of his divine culinary creativity, but instead, because he is an all-encompassing creative, wearing all hats, as the star of his one man show, in a city whose French origins have nurtured his spirit and soul.
Although Abbott now stands halfway around the world from the eclectic, Swiss castle, where it all began, the gravitating sense of inspiration and intrigue has not departed from him. Now standing in his own castle, his own kingdom – his kitchen – New Orleans’ beloved Lord of Meringues reigns over the less commonly known corner of confection, drawing in the local community in the same fashion the Alien cafe did to him.
This piece is part of the on-going series “Creative Labor Through the Crisis,” which is part of a Creative Labor course at Tulane University taught by Dr. Vicki Mayer and Kelley Crawford. Quotes and information are taken from interviews completed by Dr. Vicki Mayer and Kelley Crawford.