Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures


White asparagus

Asparagus falls under the Fibrous category of the Consistency Rule which delineates which foods I won’t eat. (Other divisions include Gristly and Gelatinous.) Green asparagus tends to get caught in my teeth and leave tiny fibers hiding in corners of my mouth and I generally won’t have it.

But when I saw a bunch of super cheap white asparagus at my market after reading an appreciation in the NYT, I brought them home to experiment. I watched a José Andrés video and checked out some recipes on Epicurious and ended up liking them best raw, served here with an incredible avocado, some olive oil and salt and pepper. Texture-wise, they’re crunchier than hearts of palm, like a raw onion but not pungent.

white asparagus

Cultural Misunderstandings (Another Internet Warning)

Non-Americans say the funniest things. In one of the corners of the Internet I lurk around, a viewer of HBO’s adaptation of the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones complained that it wasn’t fair no new episode would air last Sunday because (they assumed) all US TV is dedicated to Memorial Day celebrations like parades and pageants. I actually laughed because, in a way, that’s a logical conclusion to come to but is so far off the mark. In the US, practically no good TV is ever aired on holidays or three-day weekends because Americans are too busy traveling, spending time with family, playing or watching sports, or getting drunk and eating too much. Conversely, in the UK, it’s common to have special Christmas episodes of popular series which actually air on Christmas day, something that would just never happen in the US.

This leads to my second consecutive Friday warning: if you read or follow anything slightly pop culture-related, all those sites are going to break and possibly melt the entire series of tubes which house the Internet on Sunday night, Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5) because the penultimate episode of the third season of Game of Thrones is going to make people freak the hell out. It’s going to be great… unlike the fourth season of Arrested Development which I am not caring for at all so far. Wish I could take a forget-me-now and wake up on Monday so I could step right into Westeros.


NYT proves my French is getting better

Reading through an opinion piece in The Times recently, I came across a “French” word and paused to consider it because it looked wrong.

bad French in nytA little to my surprise, I was right to find faute with the word: it doesn’t exist. The correct word is épistémè (note location and direction of accents) which is also insane looking but doesn’t cause me to do a double-take and get to Googling.

As for the content of the article, I have no idea what any of it meant. Shortly after resurfacing from an extensive primer on Foucault and the concept of épistémè I went back to the piece and came away more confused than when I started. This just goes to show you that while I am able to detect misspellings of French words, I still have a hard time understanding things in English.

Learn Something

→ I re-read Lolita when I was in Lyon a couple years ago and was excited (poor word choice?) to learn that Humbert Humbert attended lycée in Lyon. It was an odd bit of biographical info that led me to seek out more about Nabokov. He spoke and wrote in his native Russian as well as English and French. Color me impressed.

→ Despite fronting my (statistically) favorite band and putting out six solo albums I quite like, Sting will forever be the guy who taught the world to willfully mispronounced “Nabokov” as NAH-boh-kahv just to suit his rhyme scheme. It’s actually nah-BOH-kaff. You can listen to a genuine Russian pronouncing it here.

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Word Mystery: rabbit / conejo / lapin

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

The best kind of rabbit is like a Milford man.

There were rabbits on my grandparents’ farm. They lived in hutches in a side room of the chicken coop. I remember they pooped copiously, little brown pebbles that never seemed to stay in their living spaces but always ended up on the floor and embedded in the soles of my shoes. I helped feed them sometimes but I didn’t care for them much. They always felt really hot and their eyes were shifty.

After pondering why I have so many rabbit mantras in my life, I didn’t come to any conclusions, but I sure did think a lot about rabbits. I mentioned that we ate them sometimes (as we did every animal on the farm), but I don’t have any particular memories of favorite dishes or preparations. I do remember that they screamed like crazy when you grabbed them, even if it was just to put them in another cage to give them clean hay. This made me like them even less as one thing I really don’t care for is small things that make loud noises (see: children, esp. babies).

What did occur to me is that rabbits are totally Word Mysteries, so let’s get hoppin’.

EN → rabbit — a burrowing, gregarious, plant-eating mammal with long ears, long hind legs, and a short tail. ORIGIN late 14th cent from Walloon (French/Beligian dialect) robète , diminutive of Flemish or Middle Dutch robbe (rabbit).

ES → conejoMamífero del orden de los Lagomorfos, de unos cuatro decímetros de largo, comprendida la cola. Tiene pelo espeso de color ordinariamente gris, orejas tan largas como la cabeza, patas posteriores más largas que las anteriores, aquellas con cuatro dedos y estas con cinco. [Mammal of the order Lagomorpha, about 400cm long, including the tail. Typically has bushy gray fur and ears as long as its head. The fore legs are shorter than the hind legs. The former have five toes, the latter, four.] ORIGIN Latin cunicŭlus (rabbit).

FR → lapinPetit mammifère herbivore très prolifique, caractérisé par de longues oreilles et une petite queue touffue. [Small herbivore which breeds very quickly, characterized by long ears and a short bushy tail.] ORIGIN Uncertain, possibly a combination of laper (eat avidly) and levraut (hare).

English wins because I’d never heard of Walloon before and I like that a language spoken in a tiny geographical area won over the more commonly used French terms. Having no actual knowledge of this, I’d guess that the Walloonish people were avid trappers and sellers of rabbits, so their word won by virtue of being used most often.

Learn Something

Rabbits do run hot. According to the Internets, their normal body temp is 101-103F (38.3-39.4C). This reminds me that in Spain, parents take their kids’ temperature by putting a thermometer in their arm pits which I found really off-putting for some reason.

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A product for Patrice Bateman?

patrick-batemanEverybody knows that Patrick Bateman loves Huey Lewis and hates dry cleaners. If he comes to France, he’ll be in the market for a product to remove les taches du sang and I’ve got just the thing for him. This creepy-ass item I came across in my local supermarket.

Help! Blood!

“S.O.S. Sang” = “Help blood.” Who the hell is marketing this stuff?!

The concept of blood stains isn’t foreign to me but the wording of this item’s uses is: “Blood, milk, egg, animal and human stains.” Why not say something less disturbing, like “protein stains” and not make everyone feel uncomfortable? It could just be me, as we’ve already established that, possibly due to excessive movie-watching, I see murder everywhere.

For the Huey haters

I’ve always liked Huey Lewis and the News. They had a bunch of catchy songs that are still fun to sing along to. Lewis also has a great sense of humor about himself and his legacy. You can listen to him on NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (a panel quiz show) a while back, being a good sport.


The Internet’s just messing with me now

I don’t even know what this means, but the day after I wrote about ren dez vez, this thing popped up on Twitter.


This reminds me

When the 80s cover version of “Lean On Me” was popular, I couldn’t find it at record stores. I was looking for a group called Club Nevo based on what my local DJs said. Many years later, I got an 80s compilation CD as a gift and there it was, “Lean On Me” by Club Nouveau. Oy vey.