On the doorknob every morning hung a small brown paper bag with a buttery grease spot on it and two, still-warm-from-the-oven croissants inside.
“Merci,” he would call out to nobody in particular, as he stood naked in the crack of the doorway before bringing the delightful little package back to bed.
We had checked into a room in a tiny hotel in the old part of town with an old-fashioned double bed and not much more. Outside the window was a small balcony that overlooked a closed-in courtyard dripping with ivy.
It was quiet. It was cozy.
It was sexy.
“How about you come to Montreal with me?” he’d suggested.
You know how it is. You meet someone, fall in love and want to show them where you’ve lived, gone to school, worked and loved.
You want to bring the past forward into the present. You want to walk in both worlds.
Downstairs we had café au lait in huge bowls without handles. No cup could be big enough to contain this glorious way to start the day.
The waitresses would wear bright red lipstick, little scarves in their hair and ruffled bobby socks with high-heeled shoes on their feet. They would speak to me in English, and to him in French, and I would swoon every time I heard those incredible nasally, Yves Montand-y words come out of his mouth.
“I didn’t know you could speak French,” I cried. But mais oui, he could speak French. He was Canadian after all, had lived in Montreal for three years and directed the building of an English Language theater there while his wife worked at the University and their little girl went to grade school.
One night, we left our umbrellas folded up and walked through a misty, warm rain to a small café around the corner for soup and wine.
He’s the one, I thought, sitting across the table from him. What more could I ask for?
“Do you know what I would say,” I began as we headed out the door, “If a person were to ask me that particular, very important question that he had asked me about a month ago and that I said I would have to think about?”
He stopped. Put his hands on my shoulders. Slowly backed me up against the doorway just inside the café and leaned down into my ear.
“Will you marry me?” he asked breathlessly.
We sat on the balcony later that night—until long after midnight—drinking, toasting and soaking up Montreal.
“Marry Me” French Onion Soup (Vegetarian Version)
This is an ultra-simple slow cooker version of simply the best French onion soup you will ever eat. Cooking it slowly in the crock-pot, then refrigerating it overnight makes all the flavors blend together and renders a soup with buttery tasting onions in a deeply satisfying broth.
>> Vegetable broth (see note)
>> 4 large sweet onions (cut in half vertically and then cut into thin, vertical slices)
>> Mozzarella cheese (Vegan option: I find that Trader Joe’s Brand works best)
>> 2 slices lightly toasted French bread per onion
>> 1 tablespoon sugar (brown or regular granulated or basically whatever is in the house)
>> 1 tsp. vinegar
1) Put the onions in a crock pot, add the brown sugar, and cook on low for approximately 8 hours. The onions will release their own juice and turn a golden brown. Cook them until the onions on the bottom of the pot begin to caramelize (up to 10 hours). I usually put the onions in when I go to bed and let them cook overnight, checking them and stirring them in the morning when I get up.
2) Once the onions have begun to caramelize, add enough vegetable broth to the crock pot to cover the onions, salt and black pepper to taste, and cook on low for another 4 hours.
3) Refrigerate overnight.
4) To serve, heat the soup in a sauce pan on top of the stove (I do not use the microwave as it tends to thin the flavors). While the soup is heating, put thin slices of vegan mozzarella cheese on top of each slightly toasted French Bread slice and broil in the oven until the cheese melts. Slide two slices of the heated onion soup into each bowl and serve piping hot.
Note: Store bought vegetable broth can be used. For homemade vegetable broth, I keep an ongoing open bag of vegetable cuttings and trimmings in the freezer. When I get enough to fill a crock pot, I put the vegetables, (frozen as they are), cover with water, and cook them on high overnight. In the morning I throw out the (by now overcooked) vegetable cuttings and save the broth in jars in the fridge.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Image: Mr.TinDC at Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman