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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Bachelor Food: garlic shrimp

This almost couldn’t be easier to make or taste better.

Garlic shrimp


  • cooked shrimp
  • minced garlic
  • oil
  • flat-leaf herb like cilantro, parsley, etc.
  • ripe avocado
  • corn tortillas


1. Warm some oil in a non-stick pan, low- to medium-heat. Dump as much garlic as you like into it. (I like lots and loads, like five or six cloves just for me.)

2. Devein shrimp (optional) and roughly chop, about three pieces per prawn.

3. Throw shrimp into warm oil. Mix around and let sit on the stove.

4. Slice avocado in the peel and, using a spoon, scoop it into a bowl. Sprinkle with good salt.

5. Turn the heat up on the pan a bit until the shrimp achieve the color you like. (Remember that they’re already cooked so this whole process is basically to heat them up, infuse them with garlic and maybe toast them a bit.) Remove from heat and place over avocado.

6. Throw corn tortilla into pan with the garlic oil and heat until crisp, flipping once. Remove from heat and place on a paper towel for a moment to drain while you dust some salt over it.

7. Strew torn herb over the shrimp.

8. Dig in, using broken up pieces of tortilla as a shovel.

Total cook time: like 8 minutes, less if you buy minced garlic and deveined shrimp.


Word Mystery: slipper / zapatilla / chausson

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

Last summer, my sister bought me these slippers while she was in Paris.

FLASH slippersShe did this because everyone in my family loves slippers, they were on sale (we love good deals) and when I saw them, I said, “FLASH! Ahh-ah!”

Flash tweetI’m not the only one who does this last thing (see tweet at right), but I may be the only person who does it who doesn’t like Queen and who can’t remember having seen FLASH GORDON (1980), the movie whose theme song‘s chorus I repeat every time I see lightning bolts.

You know what else is like a flash of light? Realizing that I wear a Word Mystery every day.

EN → slipper — a comfortable slip-on shoe that is worn indoors. ORIGIN From Middle English slip [move quickly and softly].

ES → zapatillaZapato de comodidad o abrigo para estar en casa. [Comfortable or warm shoe for use in the house.] ORIGIN Diminutive of zapato [shoe] from Turkish zabata [shoe].

FR→ chaussonChaussure d’intérieur, souple et légère. [Light and flexible indoor shoe.] ORIGIN Variation on chausser [to put on shoes] from the past participle of Latin calceare [to put on shoes].

Spanish note: The Spanish verb calzar also comes from the Latin and has the same meaning as the French. Interesting that all the related words, like those for “footwear” [calzado] and “bare foot” [descalzo] and “sock” [calcetín] in Spanish share the same root tree as the French, but that it strayed so far in one instance.

Man, I’ve got to hand it to Spanish for fairly consistently coming up with crazy origins (that’s why it’s Today’s Winner). This is the first time Turkish has appeared in a Word Mystery and is probably the first time I’ve ever thought about the language of the Ottoman Empire.

About those slippers

The ones pic’d above have been made in France since 1947 by a company called Collégien. On the packaging, which is basically a cardboard hanger from which the slippers are suspended, it says that these are a classic indoor shoe worn in schools since forever. I figured they were being hyperbolic but a visit to a friend’s house over the holidays suggested otherwise.


All five people who were staying there had their own pair and there were a few for guests as well. They’re really comfy (though they offer zero arch support) and nice and toasty and are also good for doing yoga since they have soft spiked soles. They don’t get this site’s highest award, but I’ll give ’em the ole T-800 salute.


My French boyfriend

I met my French boyfriend Paul in Barcelona in 2007. During my daily traversal of the city, I’d cross paths with him and wonder how it was that he always seemed to be where I was. As a private English teacher, I had a regular weekly schedule, but every work day I’d be in different parts of town depending on where my students lived or worked. BCN is a pretty small city and it was common enough to run into people I knew on the bus or on the street on any given day, but Paul and I crossed paths multiple days a week and it was too weird not to think something was up.

Then I moved to the nicest part of town I ever lived in while in Barcelona (there was a Baby Dior shop down the street) and he was right around the corner. Our love was pre-destined, written in the stars.

And now, he’s come to where I live. Here he is shortly after arriving.

Paul 2

You thought Paul was a human boyfriend? Nah, this Paul’s had a longer relationship with me than any guy I’ve ever actually dated. But he does share some of the qualities I value in a partner like dependability. Paul never surprises me, which I love. (Seriously. If you surprise me, I will be super-pissed.)

In Spain, the bread is generally bad, which is why they slather it with all kinds of things to make it taste better. Spanish Croissants are particularly terrible since pretty much every bakery will smear the finished pastry with a sticky honey-like solution that makes the outside really hard and gross. Also, as an olive oil loving country, they never, ever put enough butter in dough so all manner of baked goods come out too dry and hard.

What Paul offers is consistently good quality foods to stuff in your face. There are other, better, bakeries, but Paul is open all week, all day, and has really tasty sandwiches too. My favorite local bakery goes on holiday and closes on Wednesdays and generally makes my bread buying something I have to plan around, but Paul, Paul’s always there. And now he’s here.

Except now, I’m not here. Just as Paul has finally come to my town, I’m moving. Ours is a star-crossed love. I love stories with unhappy endings.


I am the Benjamin

UN CONTE DE NÖEL posterI finally got around to watching UN CONTE DE NOËL over the holidays and because of it, I figured out why French people don’t understand me when I say I’m the superbaby of my family — they’ve got a whole other term for that: benjamin(e).

FR → benjaminLe plus jeune des enfants d’une famille. [The youngest child in a family.] ORIGIN Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob (himself son of Isaac, son of Abraham).

I don’t know what to think about this Jewish term being in such common usage in modern French. Despite having a visible presence and a well established neighborhood (the Marais), actually *being* Jewish in Paris doesn’t seem to be a thing that is very tolerated here. If I come across any more on this, I’ll report back.

Just in case you missed it

All of this could have been avoided if someone had just told me that this word existed and was used in such a manner but that’s not the French way. One must earn the knowledge before one can have it. And I respect that.

Cultural confusion

In American, “a Benjamin” is a $100 bill, as Benjamin Franklin is depicted on its face. There’s a cool brief history of the bill on the Wall Street Journal’s site which you can read here.

The new (2013) Benjamin

The new (2013) Benjamin

Further learning

I’d only come across the city of Roubaix, where UN CONTE DE NOËL is set, after watching the Danish documentary A SUNDAY IN HELL [En forårsdag i Helvede, 1977] not too long ago. The film centers on one year of the Paris-Roubaix spring classic bike race. I think you have to really like cycling to enjoy the film, but there were several other elements that might make it a good watch. The style was reminiscent of The Maysles Brothers’ work and many of the scenes of the riders off their bikes seemed to have inspired LES TRIPLETTES DE BELLEVILLE since the men actually behave like horses (one of the gags in the animated film).

On the conte

UN CONTE DE NOËL stars a bunch of people, as you can see from the poster (above), but my favorite part in the movie was a pseudo-ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT joke. The mother, played by Catherine Denueve, makes a disparaging comment about her daughter-in-law, saying something like, “I never liked her much anyway.” The meta-joke is that the daughter-in-law is played by Chiara Mastroianni, Denueve’s real life daughter which made me think of this:

arrested-development Lucille I love all my children equallyarrested-development Lucille I don't care for Gob