Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


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


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!


queso cheese sauce


Great Phrase: To be the milk

I generally give the Spanish people/culture/language a hard time in these virtual pages, but they have been known to do and say extraordinary things like coming up with saying that someone or something “is the milk.”

ser la leche [sehr lah leh-cheh] 1. loc. verb. vulg. Ser extraordinario. Este chico es la leche, siempre se queda dormido [colloquial verbal expression. To be extraordinary. “This kid is incredible; he’s always falling asleep.”]

The example provided by the Real Academia Española (the OED of Spanish) gives you a sense of how it can be used in a variety of ways, from genuine incredulity to ironic detachment. Like most expressions, there isn’t any one translation that really captures what is expressed, but let me throw some examples at you.

Things which are the milk

  • Lance Armstrong (both before and after his recent revelations)
  • The Duke boys
They just are.

They just are.

Things which are not the milk

  • Hamsters
  • Fran Drescher
Milk not The-Nanny

I honestly couldn’t think of anything worse.

Things which may or may not be the milk, depending on your feelings

  • U2
  • The Hobbit
I say no but other opinions are available.

I say no to Tolkien but other opinions are available.

Got it? Good. Start referring to things as the milk and see how your respective dairy level rises accordingly. And please let me know what you deign to be the milk!


Yo, Gurt! C’mere!

Yogurt. Yoghurt. Yoghourt. Yaourt. Yogur.

I don’t like you, fermented milk stuff. I don’t like your freakish consistency, neither solid nor liquid. I don’t like that you’re marketed in all kinds of gross variations that just confuse the matter further. Most importantly, I don’t trust a thing that doesn’t even know how to spell its own name.

This is the kind I eat. It tastes less like snot than most.

This is the kind I eat. It tastes less like snot than most kinds.

“Oh,” you argue. “I’m Turkish. My original name is yoǧurt so it’s not my fault that foreigners can’t decide on a spelling.”

“Well,” I spit right back, “‘baklava’ is Turkish too and everyone’s agreed to keep its original spelling. Who are you hiding from, Yoǧurt? What are you really after? Who do you work for?!”

Of course, Yoǧurt doesn’t respond because it’s a weird blob thing and isn’t sentient (that I know of). Continue reading


Mac and fromage

As some famous dead guy should have written,

In the Winter a young woman’s fancy turns lightly to mac and cheese

Inspired by Buzzfeed’s gallery of glorious examples and the discovery of a cast iron Dutch oven in the apartment I’m subletting, I set out to gather all the necessary ingredients to make my own. And it was sublime.

Farfalle with artichokes, spinach and lots-o-cheese