white asparagus, long Easter weekend, a visit to my old neighborhood

The weather here is glorious: abundant sunshine, blue sky, not too hot and a cool-warm breeze blowing in from somewhere. Easter Monday is a national holiday, and my employer gave us the Friday off, so I have a 4-day weekend. Hoorah!

I went to my local market and bought fresh flowers, a bottle of white wine (from the Loire region), strawberries from Spain, a slab of Scottish salmon and some asparagus. I’m almost embarrassed to say that I don’t know what to do with white asparagus, I’ve never cooked or eaten it before, only green. How lame is that? They call this “violet” asparagus, but it looks pretty white to me.

I found a video on YouTube. The French chef chopped off the woody ends, peeled each stalk with a vegetable peeler – twice – then tied the stalks into a bundle with string before dropping them into a big pot filled with a simmering bouillon (called a court-bouillon in French.) While the stalks simmered over a gentle heat for ten minutes, he started on the homemade mayonnaise. I won’t do that, I can’t be bothered (I hate whisking for more than 10 seconds.) You could also make a hollandaise sauce, but I won’t do that either. I’m going to make a simple green salad with a homemade vinaigrette sauce and will save some of that sauce for the asparagus.

Today I jumped on the metro and headed over to my old neighborhood in the 15th arrondissement. Starting from Passy metro station (photo below), I walked across the Bir-Hakeim bridge that crosses the river Seine and connects the 15th and 16th arrondissements.

I walked for another ten minutes before I came to the street and the building where I used to live. I liked living in the 15th arrondissement, it’s pretty much close to everything. But the apartment itself – and this is the problem with old Parisian apartments – was badly insulated, freezing cold in winter and heated by electric baseboards. My electricity bill in the winter was astronomical. And those beautiful wooden parquet floors? When the tenants above clomp around in their high-heeled shoes or boots all day, “old world charm” flies out the window.

I visited the lovely public garden across the road, brand new back then, today lush and thriving. Then I wandered the backstreets and just basically enjoyed being outdoors.

I took the metro home at 4 p.m. and, because it’s Easter, bought myself an apricot-pistachio tart for my tea.

For those who are celebrating right now, joyeuses Pâques and joyeuses fêtes de Pessa’h.

11 thoughts on “white asparagus, long Easter weekend, a visit to my old neighborhood

  1. Yes, fresh white asparagus is certainly popular here in Germany at this time of year, often sold directly by the farmers at roadside stands. We just had some for lunch today — marvelous.

      • The people who sell white asparagus by the roadside usually have peeling machines, which solves the main problem. They also offer ready-made hollandaise sauce. So we just steam the asparagus for ten minutes and serve with boiled potatoes. (I’m sure there are other families who do more elaborate things with it.)

      • Peeling machines and hollandaise sauce …. that’s fantastic. This has been a new culinary adventure, thanks so much!

  2. Some years ago we rented an apartment on Rue de Grenelle in the area where the 6th and the 7th meet. Shortly before we were to leave for Paris, I did a last minute address check and found to my dismay that I had not booked on Rue Grenelle, but on Boulevard de Grenelle, just South of the Bir Hakem bridge. In fact our building shows in your photo. In any event, we worked it out. It was a fine apartment, even if not in an area we expected. Our landlord was a young man, very personable He worked at the Tour Eiffel and even got us passes for the ride to the top. I took it, Eileen went only part way.

    But, the best part of the story is centered on having been pick pocketed at the Duplex Metro Station, It was a gaggle of teenage girls on and off in a flash, and with my wallet. Fortunately they did not take my passport which was in the same pocket. To shorten a long story, I notified my Credit card companies for replacements and to stop any transactions.

    However, I was out all of the euros I had in cash, in fact, not even enough for dinner that night. I called our Landlord to see if he could return part of our apartment deposit. Unfortunately, he could not get to us until the following morning. But, he told us he would contact a neighbor and ask him to loan us 1oo Euros. The neighbor agreed to loan to perfect strangers. We got my cards the next day, I got cash from an ATM, and was able to repay the short term loan. I always tell that story to anyone who ever claims the French are unfriendly to Americans.

    • Dupleix metro station was my old station when I lived in the 15th. A gaggle of girls who stole your wallet, that’s despicable …in any country!
      It’s true that you cannot generalize an entire nation (but, sadly, we often do.) All I can say about the kind neighbor, Sherman, is that (a) he was probably a friend of the Landlord, and (b) you and Eileen obviously have honest faces and the neighbor believed your story.
      Sadly, tourists with kind, honest faces end up being targets for crafty thieves in the metro. When you come over, I’ll give you some tips for being as vigilant as possible.
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. thanks, I know my pickpocketing experience is much too common, especially at busy Metro transit points where people crowd around doors to get in or out. We are stopped from time to time by people who want us to sign a petition of some sort, often another major scam to distract the victim while an accomplice is doing the dirty deed. But, vigilance should be constant in any travel situation, regardless of city…and we do try to watch out for all eventualities. My metro encounter has been the only one of its kind, though we were offered a beautiful ring while walking along Avenue Montaigne during one trip by a kind person who wanted only a small reward. I think I suggested that he “tu te perds”…. 🙂

  4. What a wonderful day! I would love to be walking around Paris with you!
    It was a beautiful day here. I didn’t walk around the neighborhood. Sadly, my energy level is so low that I rarely walk at all.
    I actually made dinner for my 2 neighbors. I hadn’t entertained in years! It was just so nice to be around people!

    • And I’d love to be walking around Paris with you too, Lori. I’ll be sending you my book soon.
      Take care.

  5. Oh, Ps….I hate white asparagus, but do enjoy the green. I think Julia child suggests cooking it while held together by a rubber band upright in a couple of inches of simmering water. I like mine sauteed in a skillet, with olive oil and butter, just until blanched and starting to brown around the tips…still firm and tasty.

    • I cooked that white asparagus (in simmering water, well, a bouillon), ate it and didn’t find it particularly terrific or better than green asparagus. I’ll try your method the next time (with green asparagus). I’m wondering if white asparagus is over-rated.

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