Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Avocado madness!

Many of the places where I buy food stuffs are bursting with à point avocados, perfectly ripe specimens which demand immediate consumption. I am quick to oblige them. Here are two I’ve eaten recently.

chicken artichoke avocado

Warm chicken with Dijon dressing, fried artichoke stem chips, shallots and avocado on a tortilla.


Beefheart tomato guacamole with green onions, cilantro and lemon (didn’t have any lime) which I also ate with tortillas.


Leave a comment


Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

→ I’m not the only person who likes vegetables that grow in unexpected ways. It turns out that carrots hugging is a thing people document.

→ Mark Bittman also like artichokes. He makes a good case for them being easy to prepare, despite how unfriendly they look.

→ FYI: European festivals are designed to confuse foreigners. Octoberfest? Happens in September. La feria de abril? It’s in May. Mark your calendars accordingly (which is to say one month early or one month late).

→ Reading about the root of the word owl reminded me that in Spanish, “hoot” is ulular (FR : hululer). This is a crazy-fun word to say. Eew-luu-lahr. Makes me want to yodel from the mountaintops.

→ I’m not the only one who prefers Samsung products to Apple’s iPhone. Sales of phones at the Korean company are through the roof. Somewhere, the ghost of Steve Jobs laments that he can’t haunt his successors Jacob Marley-style. I’m sure he’s pissed.

→ Gatsby-love abounds, at least in all the parts of the Internet I frequent. I wouldn’t mind except that it seems everyone has a T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes thing. I thought he could only see into *my* soul!

→ What would it have been like if someone else wrote The Great Gatsby? According to The New Yorker, if Theodore Dreiser had taken a stab at it, the novel would have focused on the years when James Gatz became Jay Gatsby. I would have read the hell out of that.

→ I had to search through my inbox to find my Zappos password recently and was surprised that I signed up back when I had an Earthlink account. God, remember when you had to pay for email? Turns out that Microsoft sure does as they killed their Hotmail service recently. Fun fact: I had dial-up Internet access when I left the US. My reasoning at the time was that I sat at a computer nine hours of the day, why the hell would I at home?

→ Falling down an Eddie Izzard YouTube worm hole, I came across another gem (truly, the man is almost as pithy as Stephen Fry) where he talks about multilingualism:

I think the whole world should be a big melting pot, like Manhattan, a massive Manhattan. This is my simple idea for the future of the world.

Yeah, what he says! This is where I mention that my nephew, who lives in Brooklyn and goes to a bilingual school, pronounces the best borough as mahn-há-tán, with a weird accent. It’s very funny but not très sophisticated.

→ Finally, there’s always money in the banana stand dance:

Banana challenge


Non-Spanish rice

If you buy rice in Spain, the packages don’t have directions on them because they assume you know how to make it. One of the many ways I am a bad Spaniard is that I do not. Even when I have instructions, I manage to ruin rice, always leaving a layer of burnt stuff at the bottom of the pan, so I don’t even bother.

Enter risotto. Apparently, people don’t like to make it ’cause it’s time-consuming, but I don’t see that. I rinse the grains until the water is basically clear, a trick I learned from Ming Tsai, and toast them a little with some oil (and garlic if I’m going that way). Then I add water to cover plus a bit more for good measure, crank the heat up until I get a boil, cover and put it on low. At this point, I usually pick up my kitchen book (I have reading material handy at several key spots in my apartment) or turn up a podcast while I’m cleaning up. A couple minutes later, I take the lid off, stir the rice around a bit, add more water and cover. I repeat this last step again after a short while and then remove the lid to burn off any excess liquid.

I’ve been experimenting with risotto all winter and the above process is the one that works best for me. Once it’s done, you can add whatever you want (mushrooms, cheese, etc.) but lately, I’ve been letting the rice cool down in a bowl with some fresh lemon juice squeezed over it. While that sets, I prep my vegetables. Since artichokes have been plentiful and lovely at my local market, I’ve been slicing the hearts up and pan frying them till crisp. A little kosher salt and some fresh dill and I’m good to go.

risotto w:artichoke
Mark Bittman offers another take on non-Spanish rice with his “humble paella” recipe.


My kind of bouquet

The first time I got flowers I was thirteen. Movies had told me that this was some kind of romantic gesture but my reaction was more along the lines of “You gave me a bunch of dead plants. And they’re pink. Do you even know me?”

After that, I realized that it was in my best interest to set gift guidelines. Generally speaking, I don’t want to receive any. It’s much easier on both parties if I am not placed in a situation where I will not like a gift, which is likely. I will reject something if I don’t like it and there’s a good chance I’ll reject the giver too. Still, there have been fools who were dead set on giving me something, so the first exception to the rule for many years was to get me the only thing I’d definitely love: cigarettes. Barring that, something edible that I could enjoy and then not have to keep was the only other option.

Decades after the first debacle, a third possibility has appeared. Edible things that look like flowers but don’t aggravate my allergies!

artichoke flower

I’d gladly accept a dozen of these lovely artichokes, trimmed to maximize beauty and ease of consumption, instead of their unpalatable brethren.