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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Roughage rabies

When my best friend was in town for a day, I took him to my favorite pizza place in Paris. We shared a fixed price menu of two pizza choices and a salad. The latter was not to my liking. I blamed the roquette lettuce (too bitter) and he told me that it was arugula.

This was one of those words from my previous life that feel like they’re trapped in a fog in my mind. I knew that arugula was a kind of lettuce but hadn’t been in an English store in so long, I couldn’t remember what it looked like. Plus, I was sure it was roquette lettuce and told him so. “I think it must be the same as ‘rocket lettuce’ which I’m pretty sure exists.” He agreed that “rocket lettuce” is a thing but assured me that he was eating all the arugula because I didn’t like the arugula.

It was one of those annoying moments that stuck in my mind and was so irksome because I was almost 100% certain that I was right but I wasn’t 100% certain that he was wrong.

You see where this is going, right? You’ve probably known all along what it took me ages to figure out: arugula and roquette and rocket are the same thing. Stupid languages, making me second-guess myself.

Arugula roquette rocket

Check something out

America’s Test Kitchen, the TV and podcast division of Cook’s Illustrated, is the best. (Today’s screen shot is from their online cooking school.) In one of my parallel lives, I stayed in Boston and worked for them, testing cooking equipment and taste-testing cheeses and developing the easiest fool-proof recipes. Their TV show is the best of its kind since it’s about cooking, science, consumer information and food. Their website and newsletter are also significantly great.

Lessons the Cos taught me

I call all kinds of lettuce “roughage” because that’s what Bill Cosby did on his show in the 80s. Remember when the whole country watched the same thing every night at the same time? That’s totally weird to think about now, especially if you actually go back and watch some of those old shows. Most of them are not good.

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Links / Enlaces / Liens

One Link...

One Link…

On this day, God said, “Let there be links!” and there was much rejoicing.

→ France’s continued problems assimilating immigrants into the culture is against the founding principle of the Republic; Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. But, writes Justin Smith in a NYT Op-Ed piece, the French can justify everything:

“…when equality is invoked … it is understood that this is equality *among equals*.”

Other interesting thoughts on the perceptual differences between expats and immigrants in France follow. (Spoiler: one group is welcomed, the other reviled.) 

→ David Crystal is my new Richard Lederer! If either of those names mean anything to you, you are a word nerd and we can be friends. Leonard Lopate reran an interview with the former over the holidays. Crystal’s books The Story of English in 100 Words and Spell It Out are currently top-lining my ebook reader. Tl;dr — the French are to be blamed for everything wrong with the English language (see 1066). 

→ Stefan Stasse, the German co-host of my favorite ASOIAF podcast, posted the second in a series of occasional podcasts he’s doing with a history PhD candidate about different cultural perspectives vis à vis Important Historical Events. In this most recent episode they discuss what Europeans know about the American Civil War and how Americans understand WWII. Asking Germans about the war (even though you’re not supposed to mention it) is a hobby of mine, though you really have to get to know one before you broach the subject. They’re pretty touchy about it. 

→ Speaking of die Deutschen: “Not one frown in the place, which is exceptionally rare for such a large gathering of German people.” The blog Oh God, My Wife Is German is consistently amusing to me.

Two Links!

Two Links!

→ Boston neighborhoods corresponded to their Manhattan equivalents (based on median rent). Interesting to compare the two and see what the locals value most in each city. Freakishly (or maybe totally predictably), my dream neighborhoods in each city are counterparts.

→ Do you ever get totes emosh about something and think, “I can’t EVEN handle this because”? If you have no idea what any of that means, you need to read “A Defense of Internet Linguistics” cuz it’s amazeballz. 

→ Wikipedia “is like walking into a mental hospital: the floors are carpeted, the walls are nicely padded, but you know there’s a pretty good chance at any given moment one of the inmates will pick up a knife.” 

→ My brother, the only other person I know who also loves podcasts a lot, told me that 60 Minutes is available in an audio-only format. I got crazy excited about this since the show was, as the NYT once said, “one of the most esteemed newsmagazines on American television.” The writing is significantly less good than it used to be — any given story has copy filled with clichés or misuses of words like “literally” — but they still report some fun things. 

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God Bless America, Part 1

America is so awesome! Look at some of the ways it kicks other countries’ asses!

You think 2000 calories is enough for an adult to consume each day? Well, we’re going to be 61% better than you!

CalorieConsumption_1You say that days off is good for mental health, improves productivity and promotes creativity? We say, screw you! Go back to Communism, you fascists!

Vacation daysBeing honest now

I used to wish that some things in Europe worked more like they did in the US (banks, websites, store return policies) but I’m totally convinced that the advantages of EU-living far outweigh the annoyances. The thought of going back to the States to live is so disagreeable to me now. (Though the presence of Mexican food is tempting.) It’s a wonder I ever lasted as long as I did.

One place I’ll never live again is Spain, where they’re finally out of the recession! (If you consider 0.1% growth progress. I think that’s probably within the margin of error of any data which means that they’re actually probably still in the shitter.)

UPDATE: Mitch tipped me off to this Oxfam photo series documenting families from mostly third world countries with all the food they eat in a week. This in turn reminded me of the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel which is a similar concept except the people selected are from wealthier (and less healthy) nations. You can see a bunch of Menzel’s photos on Time.

In final news

You may have heard that the Boston Red Sox completely destroyed the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 to win the World Series. They’d lost two games earlier in the week. Those games were played on the two days that I wasn’t wearing any Red Sox paraphernalia. Coincidence? I’d like to think so, but I still made sure to wear my Boston pride during the rest of the Series because I didn’t want to be responsible for them losing. This kind of sports fan superstition isn’t something I’ve come across in Spain or France, and I spent years living under the global domination of the world’s best football team. Is this possibly an American thing?