FeaturesAlex Farnham's Soapbox

Alex Farnham’s Soapbox

Get ready everyone; I’m about to change your life. I learned from a colleague of mine who happens to possess Italian blood (as in his mum’s Italian, I don’t mean he’s some sort of blood-collecting ‘assassino’), that when making lasagne, there’s a secret trick… a life hack if you will, that makes it taste roughly 100 times better.

We all know the drill: meat, pasta, sauce, repeat – incidentally, this would be much more ‘my jam’ than that song that came out a few years ago ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’. What irresponsible advice! Surely if you were indeed planning to ‘rave’, you’d want to have a decent meal beforehand so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach, and all that dancing could make you sick, so perhaps a better name would have been ‘Eat, Wait an hour or so, Rave, Sleep, then Repeat – but not before a sensible drink of water’, but I guess that wouldn’t be as catchy. Anyway, I’m getting distracted.

Where was I? Ah yes, lasagne! So, we all know the recipe. However, what if I told you that after the beef and veg and stuff, we added something new and wonderful: a layer of prosciutto. Crazy right!? Trust me, I took his advice last week and by gum it worked. It was absolutely delicious. That’s all you need – a layer of cured ham between the beef and the pasta, and you’re in meat heaven dot com (don’t look that up). Seriously, try it and thank me later – fun fact: the guy who taught me this is also called Alex, but that’s a story for another day… Actually, that’s pretty much it: we’re both called Alex.

I’ve been dealing with some delicious food recently, and whilst we’re on the subject of appetites I may as well keep going – eating is one of the few things I’m good at. A few weeks ago Charlie and I went on a long weekend to Paris. She had never been before, so we undertook a tourist-tastic romp around all the sights the beautiful capital had to offer. From the Eiffel Tower and Le Louvre, to Les Invalides and a Seine river tour, we saw it all. Except for The Catacombs. For some reason they’re closed on a Monday. Maybe the skeletons need a day off from all the Americans with selfie-sticks and un-solicited opinions about how different Europe is to the US? We later learned from our Uber driver (who, by the way, claimed he’d had Rihanna in the back of his car – not in that way… grow up) that most things in France are closed on Mondays. I didn’t know that was a thing, but I have to say I like it. Down with Mondays! Let’s go on strike! It seems to work for the French after all? Anyway, exploring Paris for two and a half days was fantastic, and we really enjoyed it – especially our second night there. Before seeing Cats Le Musicale, we ate at this delicious wine and cheese place that was a sort of deli/restaurant run by a young couple. The husband sold cheese at the counter, and the wife ran the restaurant side of things. It was the cutest and most French thing I’ve ever seen. We had broccoli and Parmesan soup to start, and then shared a huge cheese board for our main, complemented by a red wine recommended by the lady. If you’re ever in Paris, go there – it was a lovely change from the tourist-trap, plastic menu establishments on every street corner. It’s called l’Affineur Affiné, and it was perhaps the most appetising meal I’ve ever experienced.

We may as well move onto something slightly less appetising, and talk about where we stayed. Now the AirBnB (I know: AirBnB, Uber – we’re such a digital duo!) was great, it was a short walk from the metro, and right in the centre of Paris. However, unlike Kim Kardashian, it had a small but – it was literally next door to Le Bataclan. If that name sounds familiar it’s because it’s where the tragic Paris shootings occurred last year. When the lady whose apartment we stayed in told us this, the sociopath in me decided it was a good idea to shout ‘cool!’, which may have come across as a little insensitive – but what I meant was this: it’s where history happened, where one of the most tragic events of our generation took place, and we get to see it.

Obviously it was awful, but one more person saying how awful it was isn’t going to matter, I just thought it was going to be interesting to see what it was like, and haunting to imagine what the people would have thought, and how scared they would have been. And it was interesting…

However, when we saw it, the place was still boarded up, and there were a few bunches of flowers laid by it… but that’s about it. Everything was just sort of normal, no memorial, nothing. I remember thinking to myself that this is the way to handle it. Paris is always referred to as The City of Love, but maybe it should be more aptly named the City of Not Hate? Ok, not quite as catchy, but we all heard about that poor man who lost his wife, whose young boy lost his mother, remember? He wrote an open letter to the terrorists saying that they do not have his hatred, if you didn’t read it you definitely should. His name is Antoine Leiris and the letter is entitled ‘You Shall Not Have My Hatred’. It’s very moving. Hatred is a passionate emotion – why waste it on people who want it? The impression I got is that French hatred is exclusively reserved for Mondays, rush hour traffic, that sort of thing… not cocks who go round shooting people. Sod the terrorists, you don’t even deserve to be considered. Someone get me a café noisette and a croissant. That’s not clumsy racial stereotyping by the way, they’re seriously all about noisettes and croissants over there…

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