What is it about Paris that inspires flânerie, or aimless wandering, past shop windows and brightly lit cafés, where couples sit enchanted with their own company ? It could be the short, typically northern-latitude winter days, when only the highest apartment windows shine with the reflection of a sun so low in the sky that it seems it will never climb back up to its summer zenith.
A perfect solution for chasing away the winter blues, vadrouille is another word for an aimless walk, deliberately without direction. Navigating the cobblestone banks of the rising Seine, crossing the sandy grounds of the Luxembourg Gardens through updrafts of swirling leaves, or even wandering through – horrors ! – the Paris “No-go zones” and then finally, finding the perfect café in which to warm up and while away the hours sipping coffee and reading… For me, this is the essence of winter in Paris !
Scooby Doo, Scoubidous, or Scoubi-dubious ?
If you’ve experienced the thrill of exploring a new-to-you corner of Paris, you might be familiar with that feeling of pure discovery. I love those parts of Paris with their sunny, lost alleys, or by-chance brocantes, or antique shops, beckoning me in with a great table or a vintage coat rack.
Some of the coat racks you find are criss-crossed with funny plastic bands across the top : they’re called scoubidous in French. Those long, colorful plastic strands were popular among children in the 1960s (and then again in the 80s) for braiding, to make bracelets and keychains, and then they were co-opted to make magazine racks, chairs, and pretty much any kind of furniture possible !
But the name scoubidou doesn’t come from the American cartoon Scooby Doo ! According to Marie Claire Idées, it comes from the Provençal word for broom, escoba. The city of Lapalud, near Avignon, became the broom-making capital of France in the 1930s. Long before plastic scoubidous were available to children, they scooped up the extra broom fibers in Lapalud and braided them together. But that’s only one story.
Apples, Peaches, and Cherries
The name also might have come along much later, inspired by a 1959 song called Scoubidou, interpreted by French singer Sacha Distel. Like a lot of French songs of that era, this one was a copy : Peggy Lee was the first to sing Apples, Peaches, and Cherries, written by Abel Meeropol. He was also the author of the song Strange Fruit, which Billie Holiday sang to great acclaim.
You might hear either of these songs on any number of quirky French radio stations available here in Paris, like FIP or TSF Jazz (“toutes les émotions”), which I like to listen to while I’m preparing dinner well after nightfall.
Comforting celery root soup
When I return to our apartment after one of my long walks in Paris, the arrangement of furniture, dishes, pens, and books always seems strangely unfamiliar, as if someone else lived there. Has this ever happened to you ?
Like any travel, both near and far, the combined elements of the landscape we take in tend to distort our previous sense of reality, making for a pleasant dépaysement or visual disorientation, upon our return home.
That’s just the moment I turn on the radio and whip up a quick batch of this comforting celery root soup with blue cheese – perfect for long winter nights. This soup can go either way : enjoy it as a nutritious full meal for two, or serve it in small cups as a starter for your friends.
Celery root soup with blue cheese
It seems I’ve had quite a few discussions lately about chunky soups versus smooth soups, with a foodie friend, or with other Parisian friends. This is most definitely in the smooth category, but if you prefer yours chunky, then don’t bother blending !
Celery root is a hearty winter go-to vegetable, either for making mashed – along with a couple of potatoes, some whole milk and lots of butter – or for this ultra-simple, warming soup. The blue cheese complements the celery flavor, and the green apple provides the tiny bit of tartness needed to bring the best out of the other ingredients.
1 tablespoon butter
1 small celery root (about 1 lb. or 450g), peeled and cubed
1 medium leek, white part only, washed well and thinly sliced
1 medium Russet, Desiree, or any other high-starch potato, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon salt
4-6 cups (1-1.5 liters) vegetable stock, either homemade or from good-quality cubes
½ tart green apple, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 tablespoons (45g) blue cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon heavy cream
how to make it :
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the diced celery root, leek, and potato.
2. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, then adjust the heat to medium-low.
3. Add the salt and add the diced apple, stir well.
4. Cook for 3 more minutes and when the vegetables have softened, add the vegetable stock all at once and bring to a boil.
5. Simmer gently for about 25 minutes.
6. Add only 2 tablespoons of blue cheese to the soup (reserve the rest for a garnish).
7. Using a wand mixer or a blender, purée the soup to a smooth consistency.
8. Add the cream, and continue heating without letting the soup boil.
9. Serve steaming in tiny cups as a starter, or in large, shallow bowls for a main course. Carefully distribute the remaining blue cheese among the cups or bowls. Bon app’ !
serves 6-8 as a starter, 4-6 as a main dish with bread
Soupe de celéri au bleu
1 noix de beurre
1 petit celéri boule (450g), épluché et coupé en cubes
1 blanc de poireau, bien lave et émincé
1 pomme de terre “farineuse,” épluchée et coupée en cubes
½ cuillère à café de sel fin
1-1.5 litres bouillon de legumes
½ pomme verte, épluchée, épépinée, et coupée en cubes
45g fromage bleu
1 cuillère à soupe crème liquid
comment faire :
1. Dans une casserole moyenne, faire fondre le beurre sur feu moyen, et rajouter le celéri, le poireau, et la pomme de terre.
2. Mélanger le tout, et cuire pendant 10 minutes, puis baisser le feu.
3. Rajouter le sel et la pomme, mélanger.
4. Cuire encore 3 minutes, et quand les legumes ont perdu un peu de leur eau, rajouter le bouillon de legumes. Porter à ébullition.
5. Baisser le feu et laisser cuire doucement pendant 25 minutes.
6. Rajouter les 2/3 du bleu (réserver le reste pour la décoration).
7. Utiliser un mixeur plongeant pour mixer la soupe jusqu’à ce qu’elle est très lisse.
8. Rajouter la crème, et continue à chauffer sans que la soupe soit à ébullition.
9. Servir dans des petites tasses comme entrée, ou dans des assiettes creuses pour un plat principal. Distribuer le bleu qui reste par-dessus. Bon app’ !
pour 6-8 personnes en entrée, 4-6 personnes en plat