Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


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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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


  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.


Bachelor Food: tortilla for one

A Spanish tortilla is simple to make but not easy to get right. It’s also a lot of food for one person, but one cold December day, I cracked the case. My solution was to make individual tortillas in muffin tins.

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This recipe is very easy and more fool-proof than a traditional tortilla.


potato (I buy a bachelor-sized variety called pompadour)
olive oil
butter (optional)
muffin tins


  1. Peel and thinly slice potato.
  2. Fry in batches. (Don’t crowd the chips or they’ll get soggy and won’t crisp.)
  3. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Salt.
  4. Layer the cooked chips into a muffin tin, forming a base, then prop chips along the side to create a tower / cone around the center. Continue to fill in with chips until the tin is almost full. (The tin can be buttered to ease the removal of the finished tortilla, but isn’t necessary.)
  5. Beat one egg in a small bowl, season, carefully pour over the potatoes. One egg should be the right amount for a standard muffin tin.
  6. Place tins in a pre-heated toaster oven and cook until egg is done to your liking. (If the top is still raw, blast the broiler for a minute, keeping an eye on the tortilla the whole time. Broilers are serious heating elements.)
  7. Let cool for a few minutes and unmold.
  8. Dig in.

They dun got me

Even though I’m no longer in the news biz, I still get annoyed when I get scooped. One would think that a recipe wouldn’t be scoopable, but the week after I had my bachelor tortilla brain wave, Melissa Clark, the New York Times’s way-too-perky food writer did a whole thing about tortilla. I was at least pleased that they made a very basic and telling mistake right in the first line: in Spanish, nationalities aren’t ever capitalized so if you’re going to go through the trouble of making an ñ, you should at least make sure your other punctuation is correct.

Melissa Clark tortilla FAILThe less said about the sentiment of her lede the better. I’m hoping it was some kind of attempt at being cutesy and not a display of out right ignorance since a professional food writer should know that often the simplest foods are the best ones.

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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.