Among my father’s mementoes of World War II is a yellowed and tattered calling card.
My mother always believed it held the names of the people with whom my father might have stayed while in Paris in August 1944; it certainly must have been a couple he befriended, as he was friendly and charming as a young man.
The last time my husband and I went to Paris, my mother could not put her hands on the card and did not recall the address. But my niece has a WWII project and together they were rifling through the family archives.
The card reads “Mme. and Mr. Pierre Harel.” It gives their address as 23, Avenue Foch in Vincennes-Seine.
Thanks to Google maps, I found such an address near (but not in) Vincennes, one in Paris and about five other Avenue Fochs in Ile de France.
I will never know, unless I chance upon a 1944 phone book, which one it was.
I do know that American writer Henry Adams stayed at 23 Avenue Foch in Paris. (Thanks to Google, I know that.)
But I don’t know who the Harels were or what the card means. (The card is pictured above set against one of my father’s toques, in a box for a quarter century now, still neatly starched but growing fragile.)
I was pondering this mystery as I prepared a simple salad today. It was cool and damp outside and I could hear the lilting songs of finches and other birds as I worked. Spring!
It’s mid-week and I’m trying not to overspend on groceries. So tossing something together from odds and ends was my intention. I made a Caesar Salad from leftover red leaf Romaine and butter lettuce and then topped it with roasted asparagus.
Very simple, very springy. I ate it with a hunk of jack cheese rolled in chives and dill.
My father once told me you could make a meal of anything if you were inventive. He could do that, and his hands were deft as he invented something for us.
"You will never be hungry if you learn this," he told me.
Once when his combat engineer unit was hungry, they scrounged for dried vegetables in a barn, somewhere in France perhaps or in Germany. My father liked to retell those stories and relished the challenge of making a meal from very little.