In an old house in Paris
All covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.
The smallest one
I know the introduction to Ludwig Bemelmans’ books about the twelve girls living in a Catholic boarding school in Paris by heart. It’s not surprising — my little sister was named for her.
I often mention my Actress sister; she and I are less than two years apart and therefore had one of those relationships that starts with you wanting to kick the other’s teeth in and ends with spending hours watching Say Yes to the Dress and crying shamelessly at exactly the same moments.
The Actress sister is widely accepted as being the one who chose my youngest sister’s name, though she was four at the time and would have called the poor child “Pepito” if she had been born a boy. The Smallest One is awfully lucky to have been blessed with two X chromosomes.
The Actress sister and I are very, very different. Which is probably why we clashed so much when we were younger and why we get along so well now. The Smallest One and I, however, have never clashed. Not only are we six years apart, which is less conducive to kicking teeth in, but from the very beginning, my father called her “Little Emily.” She and I are one and the same.
Of course, it would be unfair and wrong to say that we’re exactly the same. She knows how to style the unruly mane that we both inherited from God-knows-where, whereas I tend to wrap my hair up around itself and hope for the best. She’s naturally organized, whereas I go on manic organizing sprees after letting things pile up for weeks. But we both share a love of France. We both share a love of fall.
And as of January, we’ll be sharing our love of Paris… in Paris.
It must be difficult to comprehend for someone who lived with their siblings as a child how excited I am that my sister will be coming to stay for six months. But you see, part of the fallout of moving out of the house at fifteen is that my youngest sister was nine. We were hardly friends at that point in time, when I was just barely a teenager and she was just barely a real person. We’ve gotten closer over the years, especially now that we’re both addicted to social media, but it’s not the same as living together. It never is.
Now, she’ll be here for the day-to-day. We’ll be able to complain about the métro and the French bank together, over wine and cheese that we bought together.
I’ll be setting another plate at the table.
I am giddy.
We also share our love for classic Italian food. Unfortunately, these fresh tomatoes won’t be in season anymore by the time she’s here. It’ll be time for winter comfort food, and then, slowly, spring dishes.
We’ll shop at the market together. She’ll help me come up with ideas.
It’s fall in Paris now; she won’t see this. But we both love fall, and so as I wait, I think about all of the things we will see together. I make a list; we both love lists. Mine will be scrawled on lined notebook paper and lost at the bottom of my handbag. Hers will be typed up and saved somewhere to reference later.
I can’t wait.
Caprese Pasta (serves 2)
3 fresh tomatoes
2 ounces mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. dried basil, or 4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonnade, if your fresh basil plant didn’t wither and die
1 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
150 grams (5.5 ounces) uncooked pasta
2 tsp. good extra virgin olive oil
Dice the tomatoes and mozzarella, and place them in a bowl. Add the basil, salt and garlic. Toss to combine.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook according to package directions, or until al dente. Drain, reserving a half cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.
Add the contents of the bowl with the tomatoes and mozzarella to the pasta pot, and toss to combine. Cover until the cheese has melted slightly, about a minute or two. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss, adding reserved pasta water as needed to achieve desired consistency.
Share with your sister. She’s the best friend you’ve got.