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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orange peppers 1

They’re so mignon!

These brightly colored peppers are sold at my green grocer along with some banana-yellow ones and some brick-red ones, but the orange are my favorite. They are really small (shorter than a finger) and have a sweet yet hearty flavor and they’ve become my new shallots.

orange peppers 3

Mini-peppers with chicken and lentils.

orange peppers 2

Mini-pepper and cheddar quesadilla with guac.



Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

→ My mother says that the Spanish aguacate [avocado] comes from the Nahuatl (pre-Spanish Mexican language) word ahuácatl, which also means testicles. Quoth she: “which, if you think about it, gives a new dimension to eating it.” It’s a wonder I make such weird connections to stuff sometimes.

handeggElizabeth mentioned that the term “handegg” had been proposed as a replacement name for that dumb sport hulking Americans play. I approved the change and then found Internet evidence that suggests this may catch on someday.

→ For a show that had elements of many of the things I love, namely 80s music and spy stuff, FX’s THE AMERICANS left me pretty underwhelmed. The highpoint of the first season was during the finale when the big moments were scored to Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers.”

→ James Cameron’s movies are horrible. Excepting ALIENS (which was based on pre-existing characters), all of his films feature terrible dialogue, worse plotting and zero character development. Given that I have such strong feelings about him and his œuvre (hi Ethel!), it may be surprising that I vociferously criticize the Spanish translation of “Sayonara” over “Hasta la vista, baby” in T2, but that line actually makes sense. The Terminator has spent the whole of the movie bonding with a young John Connor in Southern California where Mexican and surf cultures collide and where “Hasta la vista, baby” is a thing people actually say. Side note: I think about movies too much.

Actual names are the last thing I get to when considering a thing, but it turns out that there may be inherent qualities to some words that affect how we perceive the things being named. Gods, the last thing I need is more things to think too much about.

→ Oh, man. I didn’t think I could like Brooklyn less. After writing about how there’s a concerted effort to train the French to pick up their dogs’ poo in public, I read about New Yorkers who are now teaching their children to poop “on the ground or behind a tree.” It’s like Americans are becoming Spanish! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!

→ I swear I’m going to stop thinking about rabbits soon but all my mental energy has finally cracked a life-long mystery. The Easter Bunny’s chocolate eggs look like rabbit poop. The Easter Bunny is leaving poop-substitutes for children. They aren’t eggs at all. They are turds. I find this sooooo upsetting, I can’t even tell you.

→ To cleanse the palette, here’s David Sedaris’s great story about American Easter and learning French. (Scroll down to “Jesus Shaves.”) I clearly remember the first time I read this in Esquire (my boyfriend), lounging on my sofa in my fourth-floor walk-up in Chinatown. How could it have been 13 years ago?


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.


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.


Crocodile eggs for lunch

Do you ever look at food and wonder what the hell ever compelled someone to eat it the first time? Avocados are like that for me. They look like crocodile-skin eggs or freaky space rocks but someone somewhere decided it would be good to ingest one. I imagine that the person came upon a split open avocado on the ground and was drawn in by its color (“Oh pretty! Put in mouth!”) and the world rejoiced, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still totally weird-looking.

Here’s one I had for lunch recently with my beloved Thai meatballs with hoisin sauce and risotto done up Japanese style with my rice seasoning.

Avocado lunch

Related-in-my-mind things

→ When I was first wandering around Barcelona one of the things that made me think that maybe I’d made a huge mistake was seeing all the signs were in català, a language I did not speak. I feared I also wouldn’t understand the people since many, many, many signs were for Avocado Buffets [buffet d’avocat] which seemed insane to me. Who needed to eat so many avocados? Turns out that not a one of them specialized in tropical fruits — they offered legal services. Buffet : firm, avocat : lawyer (personal advocate).

→ On “Call The Midwife,” a BBC series set in 1950s London, one episode featured the characters saying “avocado pear” over and over and me double-blinking every time because that sounds ridiculous.

→ Technically, avocados and lemons are berries. This last thing I learned over the weekend in the charming Danish older person romance Den skaldede frisør (:”The Bald Hairdresser,” “Love Is All You Need” English title.). Mark Kermode said it was like “Dogme does ‘Mamma Mia!'” which was mixed praise. I’m a fan of the Dogme 95 movement, but “Mamma Mia!” is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. However, it also stars Pierce Brosnan (I will watch anything a James Bond has been in) and Kermode said it’s “really rather good and really rather charming” he was right (as usual).