Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


FreshDirect to my heart

FreshDirect is one of the big groceries-delivered-to-your-home services in the US. I’ve only ever used it in New York as I was an early and loyal Peapod customer while living in DC. FD seems a little fancier than Peapod (which was run in conjunction with big grocery chain Giant) as they don’t carry a lot of products I wanted like Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, but they’ve got seltzer and really, that’s all I need to keep going.

Fresh Direct


  • 2 flats of seltzer (24 total liters)
  • 32 cans Coke Zero
  • 3 large boxes plain Cheerios
  • 1 large box Rice Chex
  • 1 cinnamon Pop-Tarts
  • 1 Honey Maid cinnamon graham crackers
  • 2 Reduced Fat Wheat Thins


Heart of Darkness

So, this happened:

Carrefour after dark 1

Oh, what? My crappy iPhone picture isn’t good enough? Try this one:

Carrefour after dark 2

Still not clear on what happened? I was in the supermarket when the power went out.

I’ll be honest, my first thoughts were of the Dawn of the Dead/The Mist variety and I was not happy because I do not like those kinds of movies. The store is open during renovation, so I thought someone tripped a fuse and power would be restored momentarily. After a few seconds, I whipped my phone out and fired up the flashlight app. As I scanned my immediate surroundings, I almost screamed because this old lady dressed in very dark colors was right next to me and that was like something out of Drag Me To Hell and I DON’T LIKE THOSE KINDS OF MOVIES!

I kept my cool though and eventually took it upon myself to help people find what they were looking for since most of the patrons mid-morning are older housewives and grandparents who don’t have flashlights. After a half hour or so, we were all ushered to the front of the store where there was light coming in through the windows and the clerks all got together, waiting for orders.

My cart was loaded up with a few things I needed, but my express purpose had been to buy a rotisserie chicken and some Coke for lunch. Some 20 minutes later, I tore into a pack of gum because I was genuinely hungry. One of the stock boys came up to me all aggressive-like, asking me what I thought I was doing. (I really hate rhetorical/sarcastic questions. Total wastes of time.) In my best French “duh” voice, I said I was hungry, obviously, and he started yelling at me, really yelling, asking how I was going to pay because all the machines were down. “I have cash,” I said and then he actually started flapping his arms angrily, saying that the registers were electric and that he was going to stay right by me to make sure that I didn’t leave without paying.

In the end, I got what I wanted because I’d thought the whole thing through in advance. I paid for the gum, the chicken and a bottle of Coke Zero in cash (€11,96) because the manager was a more reasonable person who understood that money is always money and that, because she had a key, she could open the register. She even gave me change back, which I wasn’t expecting.

I also learned an important lesson that day: the cashier from my peanut story wasn’t an angry person after all; the stock boys she works with are just total dicks.

Weapon of Distraction

I finally stopped thinking about scary movies by singing The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” to myself. I read an interview once with Joe Strummer where he went back to the market that inspired the song and couldn’t believe how small it was. Insert Thomas Wolfe-ism here.


Cacahuètes aux herbes méditerranéennes

I tried the bacon-flavored peanuts, so I figured I’d try this other kind, marketed by the same company.

herb peanuts 1

It’s way hard to spell Mediterranean in French. Are three sets of double letters really necessary?

When the cashier tried to scan the barcode (barely visible in the bottom left corner), it wouldn’t work. She complained that the product must have been on the shelf too long and that the idiot stock boys hadn’t rotated the inventory. She was clearly pissed about a lot of things and was taking it out on the stock boys. Multiple attempts at entering the code by hand also failed, so she just rang the bag up as a Misc. item and charged me much less than the advertised price.

I was not dissuaded by her assertion that the peanuts had sat in the store for a long time and that no one else bought them. That actually raised my expectations as I’m starting to suspect the French don’t appreciate peanuts as they should.

herb peanuts 2

They look pretty good, right?

And the final judgment is that they actually taste pretty okay. Better than all of the other peanuts I’ve had here, but still not up to the level I’m used to. If there wasn’t any kind of seasoning on them, they might taste good, like normal dry-roasted peanuts, but given that I haven’t come across non-greasy regular peanuts yet, I’ll buy these again. Especially if I can get them heavily discounted.


My favorite meal

Honestly, another thing I would eat all day, every day and never tire of: plain Cheerios and a bunch of cold milk. I like to keep my Cheerios crunchy so I use an advanced eating technique called janelling where you put the dry food in your mouth, then take a drink, mixing it all together as you chew. Sadly, a normal-sized box of Cheerios in Paris is too expensive for regular consumption so this is a treat I seldom enjoy.

Mr. Bear also likes Cheerios

Mr. Bear also likes Cheerios and milk

Learn something

Original plain Cheerios are only made in the US. In the UK, their “regular” kind is Multi-Grain which I don’t like because it’s sweetened and therefore gross. Unfortunately, this kind is available in more places here and is cheaper which is a double insult. The kicking-me-while-I’m-down award goes to Honey Nut Cheerios which you can seemingly buy anywhere, even in Spain, and which I can’t stand in the slightest because they’re chock full of sugar and yuck flavoring. (I assume that last part as they taste yuck but I haven’t actually checked the ingredients).