Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Things I Learned in New York, Part 2

I wear a lot of purple.

I wear a lot of purple.

→ With Filene’s Basement shuttered, I was forced to go to Loehmann’s, its more expensive cousin. At least the girl in the fitting room section put me in the right dressing room. [Ed. Now Loehmann’s is going out of business too! I am crushed.]

→ Even New York bagels aren’t as good as I remember New York bagels being. This may be another case of Thomas Wolfe-ism.

Unchanged since the last time I was there: people put way too much meat in sandwiches. The bread should not bulge on any side and all elements should remain level. If you can’t fit your mouth around the sandwich, it’s too big. Why can no one understand this basic sandwich science rule?

There should be 50% less turkey here.

There should be 50% less total turkey here.

→ If you go into a shop in a nice part of town (i.e. one where all the apartments cost at least $1 million), the salespeople are CRAZY ATTENTIVE. I popped into a place that was maybe five or six times the size of my apartment and there were over 20 young people working in there, folding stuff and plumping merchandise and taking inventory and all of them were really eager to assist me with anything I might ever need. I high-tailed it out of there since they freaked me right the hell out.

→ The subway is much nicer when it’s not a thousand degrees outside and a million underground. Much, much nicer. Downside: it’s hard to spot famous people when everyone’s bundled up. I usually see half a dozen writers, actors or media types on public transit but this time, all I saw were lots of pants tucked into boots and circle scarves.

→ In Paris, I’m the only person I’ve seen playing Candy Crush. In New York, every person playing a game on their smartphone is playing Candy Crush. Every single person. There are no non-Candy Crush games on the subway. I, for one, do not welcome our new Candy-crushing overlords.

→ Mexican food is still the best thing on earth to put in your digestive system. I’m fond of Cafe Ollin in Spanish Harlem. Their green chili enchiladas are delish.

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→ Part 1 is here.


Morry’s Bagels, Paris 11è

Morry's 4

Garlic powder does not a garlic bagel make.

The thing about bagels is that they’re not just comfort food. You can dress a bagel for just about any meal and be satisfied: for breakfast with a schmear of cream cheese or some peanut butter; slap some cold cuts and condiments on one for lunch; toast one up as a side for soup at dinner or serve some fancy eggs on them for any time of day.

The thing with bagels in Paris is that they’re not good. At least not so far, but Morry’s, located in the 11è near the Ledru-Rollin métro stop, is one of the worst.

According to a list I’ve slowly been working through, Morry’s is the oldest bagel place in town (over 30 years) as well as “one of the best” and I can only say that the people who compiled that list have never actually eaten a semi-decent bagel in their lives.

The biggest crime is that Morry’s puts its bagels in a panini press, making them soft, rubbery and hot, not crisp and warm as they should be. A person who appreciates bagels knows that they’re supposed to have some kind of bite and then yield to a softer, fluffy inside. Morry’s delivers products so moist, they’re almost wet-dough pucks which shouldn’t be eaten under any circumstance.

the noid

Morry’s Bagels

Address: 1 Rue de Charonne, 75011 Paris

Further reading

Bagel research the way it’s supposed to be done, in NYC by serious people.

Rating: this site’s lowest award, the Noid. Avoid at all costs.

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A rose by any other blahg

It never fails to amaze me how things can look totally different depending on where you’re standing. Where I grew up, we were politely referred to as “the Spanish people” (the locals being too dumb to know there’s an actual word for that – Spaniards) and impolitely called lots of other things. In Spain, my siblings and I were “los americanos” and we were both despised for our perceived worldliness and valued for the cultural information we could impart.

This phenomenon is why I ended up in a third country. In my homeland (the US) I was aware of being different for most of my life and in la patria, people were quick to point out that I wasn’t really from there. Here in France, people think I’m American or Spanish or just plain foreign and they don’t really seem to have any negative feelings either way.

All of which means I have something in common with Count Ladislaus de Almásy and frozen bagels sold at a national chain here in France: we are all identified by how people experience us, not as we are.

The Count in question is the protagonist of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje’s novel (later adapted into Anthony Minghella’s film). Almásy gets his alias after he’s found almost dead by Allied forces in the remnants of an airplane in the desert. Since he’s mostly covered in burns, the only means of identifying him are his accent, which is determined to be English although he’s Hungarian. Over the course of the narrative, which is told mostly in flashbacks, we come to learn that earlier the Allies mistook him for a Nazi sympathizer due to his foreign name, a mischaracterization that ends up causing lots of death and destruction. It’s ironic and tragic.

Bagels are delicious bread products that came over to the US with Jewish Eastern European immigrants. Any city with a self-respecting Jewish population has a decent bagel, but New York clearly has the best. Marketing them as “Little American breads” is a much easier sell, but that doesn’t really justify the misnomer.

I think everything should be referred to in a way of its choosing, which is problematic on the bagel front since they’re not sentient. I think the count would have self-identified as Lover of Katherine since nationality didn’t mean anything to him.

Me, I’m like Rick from CASABLANCA, “a citizen of the world.”