I am finally living in Paris! I spent the last week moving my stuff from the Paris suburbs of Bougival to our apartment in the 13eme (13th arrondissement), and all of my suitcases are finally empty. Such a great feeling. I can finally really start to explore this city!
My favorite thing about exploring Paris (besides finding good food, of course) is finding all the little parks that are strewn about the city. There is a park for every personality. There are the super touristy parks that are perfect for people watching, such as le Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Trocadero... Tiny garden hideaways tucked between the buildings, where you can steal a quick romantic moment... There is even le Parc des Buttes Chaumont, complete with it's own waterfall and an amazing view of the city.
One of my favorite parks at the moment is le Jardin du Luxembourg. There is something magical about this park. I recently went early one Wednesday morning to relax and soak in the atmosphere.
On a warm, sunny day, le Jardin du Luxembourg is usually bustling with tourists and children playing in the fountain with les petits bateaux. But that day, there was a slight gloom over Paris, which lent an almost eerie silence to the park. As I walked through the rows of perfectly lined trees, I passed a group of older men and women doing Tai-Chi. Their slow, fluid movements mimicked the wind moving through the trees, and the branches seemed to join them in their routine. The murmur of children's voices could be heard in the distance as they practiced their tennis lessons. Empty chairs surrounding the fountain were positioned as though invisible bodies were in deep conversation. It was a completely different park than when I last was here.
I sat myself underneath a tree (just in case it started to rain), with a view overlooking the park. I watched a younger group of adults practicing Tai-Chi to my left. It was obviously a taught class, led by an older and much more experienced French woman. I listened in to see if I could make out what she was saying... good way to practice learning French, I figured.
I was straining to hear what the woman was saying, but kept getting distracted by a rustling in the trees above me. As I looked up I saw tiny birds dangling from the branches, sipping up little droplets of water that had condensed onto the leaves. After about 5 seconds of thinking how cute the little birds were above me, I immediately thought, "Oh SHIT." No literally, SHIT. In less than a second the equation came together in my head, "Birds nibbling on leaves... birds get full... birds need to poop... SHIT." And just as I put that all together... splat. Like freaking magic. Right on my pants. It was like the park (or the birds, I guess) had read my mind. Luckily my pants were dark brown, and after wiping the shit off it was barely noticeable. I literally laughed out loud at the coincidence; the people around me probably thought I was crazy... apparently laughing at thin air. Oh well!
I washed my hands (and pant leg), and moved out from underneath the trees. The sun was starting to come out now, and after all that mess I (strangely) was starting to get hungry. I went to the grocery store earlier that morning to grab some things for lunch, so I dug into my bag and made myself a little tartine.
This tartine is all about good quality ingredients. The French don't drown their sandwiches in tons of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and dressings like we do in the States. They do though, however, use one condiment that, if they so choose, always makes a sandwich better. Butter. For this recipe, I recommend going all out for the ingredients. If you can find high-quality European butter, use it. If you can find arugula that doesn't come pre-washed in a sealed, plastic bag, get it. It's incredible the difference it makes.
I found some 18 month old Seranno ham at La Grande Epicerie, and it was just so beautiful that I had to get some. If you have access to a bakery that sells freshly baked baguettes, go there. I'm not trying to be a food snob. It's just that since there are really only 4 ingredients, why not make them all the best?
So today's super simple Tartine Tuesday is coming to you straight out of the park... minus the birds, of course.
Serrano Ham, Arugula, and Butter Tartines
1 baguette aux cereales (multi-grain baguette)
a handful of arugula
200 grams of thinly sliced serrano ham
salted butter (use high-quality butter or european butter if you can; it really makes a difference)
Spread some butter on a piece of baguette, top with arugula and serrano ham. Serves 2.