Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Foreign to me now: taco salad

Poking around my tiny fridge, I couldn’t think of anything I could make with the meager scraps of leftovers I was looking at. There weren’t enough components to justify an omelet, so I just pulled things out and looked at them. There was some corn, a third of an avocado, some ground beef that I’d cooked with taco seasoning, a couple tinned artichoke hearts, a plum tomato.

“Taco salad,” my brain said, and I rejoiced. I heated up the meat and corn and sprinkled it with cheddar. I put a tortilla in the toaster oven to crisp up then broke it into pieces and dumped it on the meat mix. Finally, I threw in diced tomato and avocado and dug in. It was totally tasty but not like any taco salad I ever saw.

At places like Perkins, a “family restaurant” chain that my friends and I frequented in high school because a) you could smoke, b) they had free refills on pop and c) they were open 24-hours, a taco salad was a heaping mound of ground meat and C-grade vegetables in a fried taco bowl the size of a dinner plate. They were several inches deep and could probably feed three people. Every few months, after the horror of the last time faded, someone would accept the dare to eat a whole one and no ever did.


The black olive makes it authentic.

The basic construction was a pile of shredded iceberg lettuce with the aforementioned meat, handfuls of shredded cheddar, cups of diced tomatoes and onions, maybe some green onions or peppers, slathered in “salsa”. Most that I ever saw had a spiderweb made out of sour cream on top, just for fun and added calories. They were the kind of disgusting food item someone would invent as an exaggeration of how gross American food is, but Americans beat them to the punch.

So nasty.

In Perkins’ defense, they introduced me to the Monte Cristo sandwich, which is something so spectacular, that it could only come from America. Wikipedia tries to claim that the ‘Cristo is related to a croque-monsieur but that’s like saying fondue and Cheez Wiz are culinary cousins. The Monte Cristos at Perkins were triple-decker turkey, bacon and cheese sandwiches dipped in batter, then fried. Take that, American Heart Association.

Fun rabies!

A croque-monsieur has always been a certain kind of sandwich to me, like the ones that we made at home with a special press that my mom got, but I just realized that they’re called “Mister Crunch” and I suddenly find that I want to tickle one to death while saying, “Who’s a Mister Crunch? You are, Mister Crunch!”


Foreign to me now: laundry chutes

There’s a dishwasher in the apartment I’m subletting and, after several months, I’m finally getting used to it. It’s the first time in my post-high school life that I’ve had one. Unloading the lave-vaisselle, I got to thinking about other things that used to be commonplace to me but are now totally weird concepts to me.

Like laundry chutes.

A laundry chute is a ventilation duct that’s installed vertically through a central part of the house so that you can throw clothes into it on one floor and it will fall to the laundry room in the basement. Needing this kind of thing sounds completely insane to me now but everyone had one. The house I grew up in was both big enough and had enough people in it that the chute’s existence was justified, but my BFF’s house was a ground floor and then a sunken basement and I remember thinking that hers, an actual trap door in the hall closet that revealed a chute no more than a few feet long, was preposterous.

John McClane knows what it feels like to be in a duct. (A TV dinner.)

John McClane knows what it feels like to be in a duct. (A TV dinner.)

Besides the convenience factor, having a laundry chute enabled my brother to pull one of the greatest pranks in my family’s history. He stuffed a pair of jeans with dirty clothes and attached his sneakers (I think with safety pins) to the bottom seams. Then he fed the half-dummy into the laundry chute from the third floor where there was a bend in the chute… and then he started yelling for help. At the time, we were all terrified because he was making like he was going to suffocate and my father was pissed that somehow we were going to have to rip the wall out to save him, but it was all just the creation of a teenager bored out of his mind. Over the years, I’ve found this memory to be more and more funny, but I doubt my mother would agree.

Fun French Fact!

“Chute” comes from the French word that means “the action of falling.” A French chute can also be a waterfall or a place where water runs very quickly, making it the cousin of “sluice“!