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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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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Conversation with myself

Me: I’m gonna go buy some of that bread that I love.

Myself: What are you going to do with it?

Me: Eat it, obviously.

Myself: The whole thing?

Me: Well…if I don’t, it’ll go bad. Once you break into a roll it starts to get stale.

Myself: Uh-huh. What are you going to eat it with?

Me: Idaknow. Something easy like Nutella. Or cheese. Or jam. Eggs maybe.

Myself: Wow, all of those are incredibly healthy options. No butter?

Me: Oh! I do have butter, that sounds good. [pause] Wait. You’re being sarcastic, right?

Myself: Who? Me? Nah.

Me: Sometimes, I really hate you.


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The bread is back in town

My favorite bakery finally reopened after their three-week vacation.

On the first day, I happily stood in the line out the door with the rest of the locals. As we got close to the counter, the woman ahead of me blurted out, “I’m so happy you’re back. We’ve missed you! We’ve all missed you!” Everyone nodded vigorously. The guy behind me was picking up his dinner bread on his way home from his run and he elaborated, “You really don’t know how happy we are that you’re back. Life is good again.”

During all this outpouring of customer loyalty, it occurred to me that shops may go on holiday just so that people will appreciate them when they reopen, kind of like a mercantile version of “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I doubt whether John Maynard Keynes or the Chicago School would agree with this economic approach, but it does seem to work over here.


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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.”