Seven years ago (cripes, has it been that long?) I was living in Halifax above a pizza/tattoo parlour and reading the likes of Plato, Kant, and Homer. You know, for fun. On a particularly cruel Thursday afternoon (okay, I don’t know what day of the week it was), the library walls were closing in and Hegel’s words were becoming indecipherable. On a whim I checked airfares to Montreal, and scored a $60 ticket. That weekend, I was out of there.
I had some friends in Montreal, I crashed on their couch and wandered around the city by foot, climbing Mount Royal and oogling the strip joints on Rue Ste Catherine. I remember some sort of snowboard chute set up on a side street, a crowd gathering, so I wonder if Winter Carnival wasn’t on. Actually, I believe it was, because we also stumbled across an installation exhibit of shovel art. That is, people shovelling snow into various sculptures as a celebration of snowshovelling as part of our inherent Canadian-ess. There was also a cycling exhibit and I tried out a fancy new drive train arm that rode like a regular bike, but each crank arm actually rotated on an ellipse. (I still have friends in Montreal, but I’m afraid my days of impulsive weekends away to La Belle Province are over, at least for a while. Too bad.)
There was also a lot of beer.
But it being February in Montreal, it was effing cold. We found ourselves on the fringe of Montreal’s Little Italy. We stumbled over the threshold of a grocer/cafe, and an unassuming hand-chalked sign invited us to try “La meilleure soupe a Montreal.” We did. It was. Perhaps it was the cold, or perhaps it was truly the best soup in the city – either way, it was truly delicious and just the antidote to the freezing temperatures and two-day binge.
My bowl was half gone before I thought to scribble down the contents, and while I don’t know what seasonings or magic potion the chef unleashed in the kitchen, I can tell you the soup contained the following:
tiny pasta balls
When I got back to Halifax, I transferred those scribbles to my recipe book and the memory lives on.
Minestrone is, by (Wikipedia’s) definition, a soup with no set recipe, full of whatever beans and veggies are in season and on hand. In that respect, my minestrone is a true minestrone. I’ve never duplicated that Montreal cafe’s bowl, but of all the times I’ve thrown the beans and vegetables in a pot and let it simmer for an hour or five, I’ve never been disappointed, either.
I just tried a bowl of today’s batch. I don’t think it’s going to make it to the freezer.