It started with the lights in the kitchen. One minute they were bright as a film set, the next the room had been plunged into darkness.
When the electrician finally came, he seemed doleful. The problem was très, très grave, madame. He would have to break a hole in the ceiling to fix it, he said, as he packed up his tool kit and beat a hasty retreat. With good reason — I was standing with hands on hips, willing him to action.
I thought my luck had turned when I discovered another access point to the electrical system and convinced the electrician to come back the next day. But then I found out about the leak in the bathroom. When it rains it pours, mes amis. Or, perhaps I should say: when it rains, it drips slowly and insidiously through the walls, eventually causing serious damage and infuriating the neighbors.
So, there I was, with the plumber in the bathroom, and the electricians in the kitchen, each fiddling with their own set of equipment. Lights on, water off. Water on, lights off. You get the picture.
Eventually, the electricians solved the lighting problem and we all cheered. But the leaking shower? Alas, it requires total renovation. Which means cracking open the tiles and delving deep into the pipes. Sigh. Given the notorious French work ethic, the shower will probably be fixed just in time for Christmas. In the meantime, water has been cut in two bathrooms, leaving me with only one functional loo — not a disaster, but a mildly worrisome prospect with guests on the horizon.
On the bright side, my French vocabulary has gotten quite a boost: une fuite is a leak, ça coule means “it’s dripping,” je vais vous rappeler means “I am going to tell you I will call you back, but in reality you will never hear from me again.”
And, at least the lights in the kitchen are shining again, allowing me to cook some of the hesitant spring produce that’s beginning to appear in the market. Like early spring pesto, which parsimoniously uses half basil and half flat leaf parsley. Tossed with pasta and steamed green beans, it’s a light and fragrant meal. Add a bit of fish — I grilled a piece of perch in my grill pan — and you have a meal of “p”s (pasta, pesto, perch). I can only hope they will attract a fourth: the plumber.
Early spring pesto
Enough for 1lb pasta
1 bunch basil leaves, washed and dried
1 bunch parsley leaves, washed and dried
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
In a food processor or blender, combine the basil, parsley, garlic and salt. Blend until coarsely chopped. Add the pine nuts, parmesan and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Process until smooth, adding the remaining olive oil to form a thick, creamy paste. Serve tossed with pasta and green beans, using small dashes of cooking water to thin the pesto so that it evenly coats the pasta.
1/2 lb filet of perch, between 1-2 inches thick
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Marinate the fish in the lemon juice and olive oil. Meanwhile, heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Grill the fish, 4-5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Serve with wedges of lemon, alongside the pesto pasta.