First though, I want to tell you about last weekend and the “Journées européennes du patrimoine” (or, European Heritage Days). I had already re-scheduled (note RE-scheduled) an eye appointment for Saturday afternoon, and Sébastien was set to play two tennis games Sunday. Though we’d been talking about it for about a month (“Oh, yeah, can’t wait to see that!” and “I’m sure there’ll be a long line, but we could try anyway.”), neither of us had realized the heritage days were this particular weekend when making all our other plans. I wasn’t about to re-schedule my appointment yet again, and, well, when there’s a tennis game, there’s a tennis game. So, we sadly didn’t think we’d end up taking much advantage of the long-awaited festivities.
As luck would have it though, Saturday was our day, as the eye doctor (over near Rebublique in the 11th) proved to be a fabulous way to start the weekend (believe that!). Not only did the doctor say my view had gotten better (I know, right?), we stumbled upon La maison des métallos (more or less, the “house of the metal workers”). Now a cultural center in the heart of a diverse Parisian neighborhood, this was once a factory where wind instruments were made (and apparently sought after by American jazz artists in the 1930s). Then, the building was bought by the “Union Fraternelle des Métallurgistes” – with an entire history that we learned all about on our tour (thanks to the heritage days!). Now I’m looking forward to attending some of the center’s community-oriented performances, debates….
Sunday, we (after how many years in Paris?) went to the Musée Chaillot (directly across from the Eiffel Tower and dedicated to “architecture et patrimoine”). We chose it thinking it wouldn’t take too long and was doable between tennis matches. Wrong! We spent about an hour and need to go back. We didn’t see everything, but what we did was pretty neat.
This was the conversation upon arrival at the ticket desk (yes, even when museums are free for the day, you still have to get a ticket):
Ticket agent: Would you like to see the Gaultier exhibit?
Us: Um, uh. Oui?
Ticket agent: Okay, I’d recommend going directly there since it closes at 5pm.
Up the elevator we go, into a sort of dream world. We enter a room covered (completely covered) with blue and white striped fabric. It’s pulled tight over the walls and furniture – making you feel simultaneously dizzy and quite curious. Imagine pulling a giant pair of striped tights over your living room – you can distinguish the objects (like tea cups), but they’re under a haze. We continued to a small series of rooms after that – taking note of the amazing view over Paris out the windows. (The exhibit’s on until October).
Back down the elevator, we saw the rooms dedicated to different architectural casts (life-size) from around France (like church facades and statues). Then, we headed to the architecture floor. Quarter to six came too fast and we had to skedaddle.
Didn’t I say I’d write about soup? Well, here it is: after a busy weekend and an equally busy week coming up, I made minestrone – to last several days.
It’s easy. My only recommendation is cooking and keeping the noodles separate – otherwise they get soggy after a day. I prefer them al dente all the time.
Also, soak the dried beans in water overnight (that’s what my mom’s always done with pinto beans back home). It keeps them more digestible (we’ll leave it there). It also means less cooking time, and thus more nutrition.
2 potatoes (diced small)
3 stalks celery
A handful or two green beans
1 can crushed peeled tomatoes and their juice
1 cup dried red or white beans (soaked overnight and cooked – about an hour)
1 cup small elbow pasta (cooked)
Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
1. Chop all ingredients into small squares or pieces.
2. Sautée the onion, then add the potatoes, carrots, celery and finally the green beans.
3. Cover with water, add some rosemary, thyme and salt.
4. Let simmer until all the veggies are cooked.
5. Add the tomatoes and their juice (Maybe you could add this right away, but I had to run out to get it – stove-top burner turned off of course!)
6. Add the cooked beans.
7. When ready to serve, dish a small amount of pasta into bowls, cover with the soup, grated Parmesan, pepper and fresh basil.
The best is making this soup on Sunday and enjoying it all week. The flavors just get better and better.
P.S. This weekend, September 23-24, is the Fete de la gastronomie in France.