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: grilled cheese and tomato soup

This is a combination that I distinctly remember “inventing” when I was a kid and I was disappointed to learn years later that many, many people had grown up having grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup served to them by their mothers. I do think that it’s a Midwesternism though, so I’m going to expand the definition of my invention to include that it’s part of the hive mind and leave it at that.

Let's never speak about how ugly this bowl is.

Let’s never speak about how ugly this bowl is.

I was inspired to reprise this classic childhood treat after finding single-serving containers of tomato soup sold by some German company in the “weird food” section of one of my local stores and by the pilot episode of FX’s new series, FARGO, where two adult characters have this combo for lunch.

Disregard that Canadian network logo. They aren't in MN or ND.

Disregard that Canadian network logo.

This is where I tell you that despite most of the action in the story, both the show’s and the 1996 film’s upon which it’s loosely spun off, taking place in Minnesota, Fargo is actually a town in North Dakota. Being an ex-Midwesterner, this kind of flagrant disregard for our state boundaries and identities pisses me off. Now everyone who watches the show is going to have an even worse idea of where things are located in that vast area that’s alternately tundra and arable land and where people do talk with weird accents, albeit not all the same one.

It’s on the eastern border with Minnesota.

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My Spidey Sense

The first time I remember my Spidey Sense kicking in, I was walking around Downtown Crossing in Boston, killing time between classes. I was suddenly compelled to enter a store that wouldn’t normally interest me. It was a place that sold weird alarm clocks and consumer weather forecasters and complicated calculators. I went directly to the back of the store and came face to face with this.

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I used to collect lions and, though this was in the early days of my Felidae-fancy, I was incredibly excited by this find. I bought it on site and didn’t realize till I got home that it was also a flashlight, something I actually needed.

Since then, my Spidey Sense has pulled me down side streets, urged me to take alternate routes and accidentally introduced me to wonderful things. I trust in Spidey and will almost always follow where he leads. The sensation is what led me to discover that BK was in Paris: one day, I was walking along and, while turning my head to check for traffic, my eyes instead zeroed in on a familiar logo in the distance.

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Most recently, I was stumbling around the Haussmann / Havre area in the 9è and my Spidey Sense stopped me short in front of this window. Can you see what drew my attention?

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That’s a trick question, because what my Spidey Sense felt was that there were boxes of Oops! All Berries inside the store on the back side of this display. *I* would never have known it and may have glossed over the place entirely since it’s a kind of Urban Outfitters-wannabe that caters to teens and that’s not really my bag.

But the Oops! All Berries. I’ve never held a box that was so full of Oops! All Berries. Somehow, they had been shipped so that none of the berries were crushed, resulting in a box that felt solidly full. And when the cashier checked me out, she didn’t notice that the price in the computer was 20% less than the ticketed price. (I didn’t correct her because this was all part of Spidey’s plan.)

Moral of the story: Spider-Man is a force for good in the world. Trust in the Spidey Sense.


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Bachelor Food: Baked potato skins

You can take the girl out of the country that provides the bar food, but you can’t take the bar-food-loving out of the girl. In my continuing efforts to recreate all the crappy things I like to eat, here are my Frenchified “baked potato skins.”

Baked potato skins

Directions

  1. “Bake” potatoes in the microwave by poking all over with a fork then nuking them for a few minutes (until tender).
  2. Put bacon substitute, in this case Italian salami, on a piece of foil and place in toaster oven until it begins to crisp, but watch that it doesn’t burn. Remove to a paper towel.
  3. Once potatoes are cooked, cut or smash them open and place them skin-side down on the salami foil, using the fat to coat the skins, then flip them so they’re skin-side up. Put in toaster oven until the skins get the texture you like.
  4. Flip potatoes over, quickly blasting on broil to dry out the flesh, then lower heat and cover with cheddar.
  5. When the cheese is almost melted, crumble up the salami in the paper towel and sprinkle it over the cheese. Let everything ooze together.

Serve with chives, crème fraîche (sour cream) or diced tomatoes.


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More lies in advertising: McDonald’s edition

I’m American and I can assure you that I have no interest in tasting whatever the hell this thing is. However, I am equally grossed out by the idea of a cowboy eating this while wearing leather gloves. Who knows what he’s touched with them?!

2013 Paris McDonalds ad


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Not in a pickle

Boar's Head pepperoni sandwichOne of the few items that made it into my bag on the way back from the US was this little pack of Boar’s Head pepperoni. As I was back in France, I had to class it up a bit, so I lightly spread butter on some good bread layered with cornichons and it was spectacular. Pickles are too big for me to enjoy, but a cornichon is a wonderous creation.

Learn something

Boar's head logoBoar’s Head meats are the best you can get in the US [site]. The company’s been around for almost 100 years and they somehow cure, roast and smoke the most incredible stuff. They also make cheese that’s equally delicious. If you’re ever looking for a good deli, check to see if they have the company’s logo in their window.

Learn something else

Pepperoni is an entirely American salami. (I’ve mentioned this before.) Snobs will tell you that since it’s not Italian, it’s a) not good or b) shouldn’t be on a pizza. As usual, snobs are wrong. Among the sausage’s many attributes are its consistency (no globs of fat), its slight spice and its perpetual eatability. I love other sausages too, but I would never be able to eat a quarter pound of, say, spicy soppressata in one sitting but I could totally do that with some ‘roni. This last thing is also part of what makes it American.

Be amused by something

Even though the appearance of the artisanal pickle was one of the early signs of the current Hipster-pocalypse, it can still be the source of comedy. Last year, “The New Yorker” published a four-part story by Simon Rich called Sell Out which is really funny and a clever indictment of everything that I think is wrong with America today. (Conversely, if you love what’s happening in the culture, you will also find your beliefs vindicated.) The story is *not* behind a paywall, so you can read it and then decree that everything “Is fine” in a knowing manner. [ETA: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]

Last thing

“To be in a pickle” is a phrase that means “to be in a messy or difficult situation.” I imagine that being in a vat filled with vinegar and salt would be both of those things.