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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Green eggs and duck

George Costanza can keep all the salsa in the world: mustard is the condiment for me.

It may be cheating to claim all variations of mustard as one thing but, as we’ve established, I make the rules around here and what I say goes, so I’ll allow it.

One of my early and most enduring mustard loves is Savora which I recommend everyone seek out, but I’m no snob so I also love classic American yellow mustard when appropriate and finer Dijons when a stronger flavor is called for.

A new entry into my mustard museum is this one made by Maille, a 267-year old company (now owned by Unilever).

green Maille Fines Herbes Mutarde

Naturally, I was drawn to its avocado coloring and the promise of three herbs. Its flavor is divine and I’ve taken to classing up regular fare with it. Here are some green eggs and duck, made all the brighter in taste and appearance.

Green eggs and duck

It must be said that I do not own this plate.

Here’s a thing I dreamed up on the bus and proceeded to chow down on: warm chicken, orange pepper, soft cheese (Camembert?) and green mustard in a lettuce wrap. Perfect picnic fare this.

Green chicken lettuce wrap

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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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Word Mystery: cheese / queso / fromage

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

It seems pretty unfair to me that in any decent city in the US you can get good cheese sticks, but that in a country that’s known for its cheese, you can’t.

American cheesesticks

These are some I got at 10 in the damn morning at a diner in New York and they were perfect. They were fried just right and had the right kind of seasoning on the breading and they were served with warm marinara sauce.

Any time I’ve seen cheese sticks on menus here, they’re served with sweet-and-sour sauce. Sweet-and-sour sauce! Like the kind in Chinese restaurants! It’s too upsetting to get into further so instead of letting my mood turn sour, I’ll get on with today’s Mystery.

EN → cheese — a food made from the pressed curds of milk. ORIGIN Old English cēse, cȳse; related to Dutch kaas and German Käse; from Latin casĕus [cheese].

ES → quesoProducto obtenido por maduración de la cuajada de la leche con características propias para cada uno de los tipos según su origen o método de fabricación. [Product obtained through the aging of milk curd, with unique characteristics according to its origin or preparation.] ORIGIN Latin casĕus.

FR → fromageProduit alimentaire obtenu par coagulation du lait, égouttage du caillé ainsi obtenu et, éventuellement, affinage. [Food product obtained by curdling milk, draining the curb thus obtained and, eventually, refining it.] ORIGIN Old French formage from Low Latin formaticus casĕus [molded cheese].

Catalan note: I should say here that my favorite way to talk about curdled milk is the Catalan as it’s the most fun to say formatge [fohr-MAH-tcha].

French note: Odd that they took the adjective and adopted it. It’s like how the Spanish call that one band “Los Rolling,” not knowing in their infinite cluelessness that they sound like idiots.

If life were fair, Latin would be the winner today since it was the unlikely source for all three words today. But if life were fair, I’d be able to get good cheese sticks anywhere at any time, so I’m going to declare that no one wins today. Take that, Latin!

Related:

queso cheese sauce


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Eggplant that doesn’t taste like cardboard!

eggplant 1

My reflection is camouflaged because I am all in purple.

Eggplant (which is actually a fruit!!!) is a thing I’ve tried to get behind for many years, primarily because it’s one of the few purple foods out there. There’s something oddly appealing about having my outsides match my insides. (I wear a lot of purple because life is a lot easier if you don’t have to think about whether your clothes matches, a tip I picked up from Albert Einstein. And purple is clearly the best color, obviously.)

But, try as I might, I couldn’t ever find a way to eat the stuff that made it even vaguely taste good. Then I saw this video about how some place in Brooklyn makes their eggplant sandwiches and I realized that the secret was double-frying.

Sadly, I don’t have a frier at home (though I remember one apartment I looked into renting in Barcelona had one as a built-in, something I never got over), so I did something more reasonable. I cut my lovely round eggplant into thick slices which I placed on a bed of kosher salt on a paper towel and then sprinkled with more salt. I let the slices rest for a good while and then wiped them dry. Next, I quickly fried them in medium-hot oil and patted them dry again. Another quick fry, in much hotter oil this time, and they were good to go.

Placed on good toasted pain de campagne with a smear of Saint-félicien (my new favorite cheese), some spinach and a dusting of freshly ground pepper… this is a fruit-masking-as-a-vegetable that I could eat all the time.

eggplant 2


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Cutting cheese in French

TerryTateThe Empire Magazine podcast turned me on to an old series of Reebok ads called “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker” (compilation). The shorts are about an American football (handegg) player who works in a cubicle farm, intimidating workers into being more productive. They are crazy funny. Two particular highlights for me included

This ain’t your home so don’t use the speakerphone.

You can’t cut the cheese wherever you please.

This last line reminded me of a day in my French class in high school, when someone passed gas and another person mumbled, in the way that one does, “Who cut the cheese?” Our teacher looked up from his desk and addressed the person who’d spoken, reminding him that in French class, we speak en français, so my classmate cleared his throat and loudly asked, “Qui-as couper le fromage?

And the whole class roared with laughter while our teacher blushed. Be careful what you wish for.

For the record

In English, you fart. In French on pète. In Spanish, tiras/hechas un pedo. There’s a funny discussion here on colloquial ways to say “cut the cheese” in French. I find all these kinds of exchanges so amusing since they’re basically what I imagine conversations with aliens would sound like.