This Truly Tragic Streetlamp

Yesterday was leftover day at my house. Actually it’s pretty much been leftover week. Because whenever we host a major holiday, we somehow wind up with all the food. Everyone comes with full hands and empty stomachs and then leaves with full stomachs and empty hands.

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So…Anyone want any potato salad?

I don’t mind exactly. We have a family full of wonderful, generous people, a very good “problem” to have and I kind of like the challenge of figuring out how to creatively use up all the leftovers. After this Easter Sunday, we were left with a refrigerator full of ham and turkey and deviled eggs and potato salad and vegetable tian and roasted carrots. We also had brownies and fruit salad and rolls.

And we had four people, at least one of whom rarely eats anything.

So when my boys asked yesterday what I was making for dinner, I responded by sharing my very clever plan to make a turkey pot pie to use up the last of the bird and most of the remaining vegetables. It was genius, really, a dish both tasty and useful.

But the protests I got over my cleverness were swift and furious and unrelenting. You’d think I’d made a proposal that would forever alter the food landscape of our home, perhaps permanently damaging our otherwise perfectly developed palates. I admit I wasn’t prepared for such resistance.

I wondered if this was how  Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel felt when in February of 1887, three hundred of Paris’s most influential artistic minds came together to launch a very loud complaint. Addressed to Charles Alphand, Minister of Works and Commissioner for the 1889 World’s Fair, and printed in the newspaper Le Temps, the complaint stated:

#COP21 - Human Energy à la Tour Eiffel à Paris - #climatechang
The new tower was called all manner of names, like “a half-built factory pipe,” a “hole-riddled suppository,” a “belfry skeleton,” and my personal favorite, “this truly tragic streetlamp.” photo credit: #COP21 – Human Energy à la Tour Eiffel à Paris – #climatechange via photopin (license)

We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate lovers of the beauty, until now intact, of Paris, hereby protest with all our might, with all our indignation, in the name of French taste gone unrecognized, in the name if French art and history under threat, against the construction, in the very heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.

The statement went on from there, but it’s safe to say that the additional words were in no way flattering to the project then already underway to construct a centerpiece for the upcoming World Exposition, which would commemorate 100 years of the French Republic.

And at first, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, might have agreed with the complaints. When two of his company’s senior engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier first presented a design proposal for a “great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals,” Eiffel wasn’t wild about it.

But when the two engineers pulled in architect Stephen Sauvestre to add a few decorative arches and a little flare, Eiffel began to see the possibilities. Suddenly what he was looking at was a kind of sexy pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined by metal trusses at regular intervals. Much better.

And, he argued, such a large, tall structure would be a potentially useful tool in scientific studies, in astronomy, meteorology, aerodynamics, and communications. In a rebuttal to the artists’ protest he asked, “Is it not true that the very conditions which give strength also conform to the hidden rules of harmony?” He continued by pointing to the many considerations necessary for creating functional art on a large scale, and in the end, concluded that while engineers rule, artists drool.

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Writer Guy de Maupassant is said to have eaten his lunch every day in the restaurant within the Eiffel Tower only so he could enjoy views of Paris without its ever-present silhouette. photo credit: The Eiffel Tower in Paris via photopin (license)

It took some time, but by March 31, 1889, when Eiffel climbed 1,710 steps to unfurl the French flag from what he identified as the longest flagpole in all the nations of the world, some of the original 300 protesters had come around to thinking the tower was kind of neat. And soon enough they were setting up their easels and trying to sell paintings of it to the more than 7 million annual tourists that flock to this most visited monument in the world.

I wish I could say my own experiment in monumentally clever leftover use was as successful. I didn’t listen to my protesters either, but I didn’t give them any witty arguments about how perhaps the most artistic dishes are those that are delicious, nutritious, and practical all at the same time. I simply reminded them that dinner was already planned and that I don’t get to be called “Mom” for nothing.

The pot pie was pretty good. My sons will never know that because they didn’t eat it. But I have a surprise for them. There’re still plenty of leftovers so tonight I’m planning to make a quiche. I know it will be a monumental success that may even become a legendary symbol of our home. Or more likely they won’t eat it. But they’ll still have to call me Mom.

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5 thoughts on “This Truly Tragic Streetlamp

    1. We have a firm policy about dinner at our house. If you don’t want to eat it, you’re welcome to go hungry until breakfast. One of these days they will become the bottomless pits that all teenage boys eventually become and then they will eat without complaint. I hope.

  1. People just don’t appreciate what’s good for them, do they? A 400ft stainless steel spire which was put up in Dublin city centre to mark the millennium took some getting used to. Dubliners made friends with it by calling it rhyming slang names such as “the stiletto in the ghetto” and “the erection at the intersection”. Perhaps your pot pie is really just a branding problem. Give it a sexy name and you’ll get a Michelin star.

    1. Yes! I’ll have to give that some thought. How does one make turkey sound both sexy and family friendly? But in the meantime, I need to plan a trip to Dublin because I have got to see the erection at the intersection.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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