Le cul entre les deux chaises

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

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Dream blogging

I had a dream the other night that I was in Barcelona with my best friend and a girl I knew in elementary school. I was taking them around the city and showing them the markets and where the best ice cream could be had. We passed an ATM and I said I wanted to go in to get pictures for the blog. (This is actually a thought that I’ve had, how I regret not having taken pictures of some cool tricks certain ATM machines can do to feature on the blog that I didn’t yet have the last time I was in BCN.)

Not a real person's card.

Not a real person’s card.

So we go into the teller space and I put my card in, but the options I want aren’t available because my ATM card is French and therefore has a puce and I am disappointed. We go to lunch in a restaurant I’ve seen before but can’t recall where in the world it was. When we’re done, I ask for l’addition and then laugh because I’m not in France and then I say ¿me cobra? and I carefully calculate 20% for the tip and take the amount to the register. The woman there looks at me like I’m crazy and I get flushed because I remember that you don’t really tip in Spain and I tell her that I’ve been gone so long, I’m like a guiri [stupid tourist] and the woman laughs at me in a mean-spirited way because she’s Spanish and thinks I’m an idiot. Of course, she *is* Spanish, so she doesn’t understand that living in multiple cultures and languages is sometimes mentally taxing. I grab the extra cash and, as I’m leaving with my companions I say, “Oof, a lot of stuff for the blog today” and then I woke up.

Learn something

A puce is a flea. In the context above, it refers to the embedded microchips used in French ATM/debit cards (see above, on the left). They make life way easier as you never sign for anything but just stick half of the card in a reader and enter your PIN.

A flea market is a marché aux puces a term I’d never really thought about until I actually thought about it (you know what I mean, right?). I am not a flea market kind of person partly because used things presented in piles that you have to dig through grosses me out, but also because they’re called FLEA markets and that really grosses me out. Open-air markets are different beasts entirely.

General Internet Warning

I strongly recommend that you get any Internet-needed things accomplished before tomorrow (Saturday May 25) because it’s very possible the Internet will break once the new season of Arrested Development becomes available on Netflix. You may think I’m kidding, but I am not going to be surprised if many sites are noticeably slower and others crash under the load. Achtung!

(Incidentally, if you need help following all the jokes or just want to relive some favorites, “Recurring Developments” has meticulously cataloged every single joke on the show’s previous three seasons.)



Great Word: friolera

ES → friolero, -ra — Muy sensible al frío. [Very sensitive to cold.]

Friolera is a good word. One of the things I like about it is that the English equivalent doesn’t do it justice. You could say “temperature-sensitive” or “a wimp about cold” which are close, but friolera has a dose of “always complaining about the weather and/or temperature” in the word too. It’s not a compliment or a neutral adjective by any means. It’s the nice way of expressing that someone is a pain in the ass, temp-wise.

I am friolera; hear me shiver!

I am friolera; hear me shiver!

I am friolera of a special caliber, “special” in the Spanish sense which is yet another way of saying “pain in the ass.” On the Fahrenheit scale, I am comfortable between 74 and 78 degrees (23-26 C°). It’s not a very big range, but anything above that leads to me sweating profusely, getting over-heated and eventually Hulking out, rage-wise. Below that and I start doing things like wearing fleece hats and scarves indoors and sometimes I’ll get a chill up my back which will park itself along my spine and I’ll shiver sporadically and not be comfortable all day.

In early November, I was talking to my mother about the weather locally where she lives in Spain compared with mine and I told her that I was already sleeping with the fleece blanket under the duvet and wearing long sleeves and pants and socks to bed. She said something dismissive like, “You always did get cold easier than everyone else” but I didn’t take it personally. My mother is Spanish and I think we’ve clearly established that Spaniards are assholes, just by their nature. (I am not exempt from this rule.)

The weather has gotten nice enough that I’ve moved the fleece blanket from inside to outside my duvet, but I’m still in that window of time where I am regularly wearing a hat, scarf and gloves while the lunatics around me are in shorts. I get a lot of strange looks from people but I just smile at them and walk on because I know something they clearly don’t: adults look like idiots in shorts.

For the record

You can call someone friolera in French too: frileux, frileuseQui témoigne d’une grande sensibilité au froid. [One who claims a great sensitivity to cold.]

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Word Mystery: nun / monja / religieuse

Every Wednesday, I explore how something came to have many word origins in different languages.

Yesterday we looked at a yummy French pastry called a religieuse which got its name from looking like a nun. Today, we’re going to look at where those crazy wimpled ladies got their names.

EN → nun — a member of a religious community of women, esp. a cloistered one, living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. ORIGIN Ecclesiastical Latin nonna, feminine of nonnus [monk].

ES monja — Religiosa de alguna de las órdenes aprobadas por la Iglesia, que se liga por votos solemnes, y generalmente está sujeta a clausura. [Member of a religious order of the Catholic Church, bound by solemn vows and generally subject to closure.] ORIGIN Feminization of French moine [monk].

FR religieuse — Celle qui s’est engagé par des vœux à suivre une certaine règle autorisée par l’église. [One who is committed by vows to follow a certain rule authorized by the church.] ORIGIN Unclear, though most likely from the adjective describing anything religious.

I guess French wins for being a root source in a language not its own.

The Penguin gave them "a mission from God."

The Penguin gave them “a mission from God.”

Things I knew about nuns before writing this post included wisdom I’ve gleaned from “The Blues Brothers,” “Call the Midwife,” “Sister Act,” “Nuns on the Run” and reruns of “The Flying Nun” on the UHF channel I watched growing up. None (pun!) of these things are actually useful information, so it appears I’m none (!) the wiser. I should stop now before God smites me for being so amused.


I chou-chou-choose you!

I gave up on French pastries a while back. Part of me didn’t want to suffer the insult of hidden cream-filledness. Another part didn’t want to ask what precisely was in every baked good. Another just didn’t crave potentially sweet things and a final part woke up some days wanting Chips Ahoy cookies (which actually happened even though I don’t really like Chips Ahoy cookies).

So, color me surprised when I was at my bakery and saw this thing and it looked at me all helplessly through the glass case and I told the girl to wrap it up ’cause I was taking it home.

Hohn-hohn, c'est bonne!

Hohn-hohn, c’est bonne!

It’s called a religieuse and is a small cream puff on top of a bigger cream puff. This one was chocolate flavored and instead of having gross cream in it, it had the same icing on the top as in the center of both puffs. It was damnably good which is a pun since a religieuse is a nun. (More on that tomorrow.)

Learn something

Cream puffs are made of choux pastry, a special batter that puffs easily and grows up and out in a rounded way, like its namesake, cabbage. Cabbage is a weird word, one which my dictionary says comes from Old French caboche [head], which is doubly weird since “head” is tête but in Spanish it’s cabeza which is much closer to caboche. I’m calling this whole thing off while I’m still ahead.


Morry’s Bagels, Paris 11è

Morry's 4

Garlic powder does not a garlic bagel make.

The thing about bagels is that they’re not just comfort food. You can dress a bagel for just about any meal and be satisfied: for breakfast with a schmear of cream cheese or some peanut butter; slap some cold cuts and condiments on one for lunch; toast one up as a side for soup at dinner or serve some fancy eggs on them for any time of day.

The thing with bagels in Paris is that they’re not good. At least not so far, but Morry’s, located in the 11è near the Ledru-Rollin métro stop, is one of the worst.

According to a list I’ve slowly been working through, Morry’s is the oldest bagel place in town (over 30 years) as well as “one of the best” and I can only say that the people who compiled that list have never actually eaten a semi-decent bagel in their lives.

The biggest crime is that Morry’s puts its bagels in a panini press, making them soft, rubbery and hot, not crisp and warm as they should be. A person who appreciates bagels knows that they’re supposed to have some kind of bite and then yield to a softer, fluffy inside. Morry’s delivers products so moist, they’re almost wet-dough pucks which shouldn’t be eaten under any circumstance.

the noid

Morry’s Bagels

Address: 1 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris

Further reading

Bagel research the way it’s supposed to be done, in NYC by serious people.

Rating: this site’s lowest award, the Noid. Avoid at all costs.