Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Christmas in July Loot

Deck the halls, we’re having a Christmas party!

In case it isn’t clear, most of the loot stuff I get is things I actually ordered myself and have sent to friends and family for them to bring me or ship me all at once so that I don’t have to pay individually for each item.

Beyond the fun of getting all things I know I want, another enjoyable element of loot is the surprise stuff. Best of all those are the edible surprises*. Here’s what I got in my recent haul:


Loot 2014 food

  • 3 Skor bars
  • 2 2-packs of Hostess chocolate cupcakes
  • 2 4-packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 2 bags of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1 box amped apple / lightning lemon Sour Nerds
  • 1 box Fierce Cinnamon Hot Tamales
  • 1 whopping pile of taco seasoning

Items which are left as of this writing

  • 1 whopping pile of taco seasoning minus one packet

I am not ashamed. Hell, the Nerds didn’t even last the trip home from the post office. The rest of the stuff didn’t even have a chance.


* Food is the best gift. You don’t have to keep it. If you don’t like it you can give it away. Sometimes it’s delicious. No one’s offended if they come by your house years later and don’t see it on display.


Things I Learned in New York, Part 2

I wear a lot of purple.

I wear a lot of purple.

→ With Filene’s Basement shuttered, I was forced to go to Loehmann’s, its more expensive cousin. At least the girl in the fitting room section put me in the right dressing room. [Ed. Now Loehmann’s is going out of business too! I am crushed.]

→ Even New York bagels aren’t as good as I remember New York bagels being. This may be another case of Thomas Wolfe-ism.

Unchanged since the last time I was there: people put way too much meat in sandwiches. The bread should not bulge on any side and all elements should remain level. If you can’t fit your mouth around the sandwich, it’s too big. Why can no one understand this basic sandwich science rule?

There should be 50% less turkey here.

There should be 50% less total turkey here.

→ If you go into a shop in a nice part of town (i.e. one where all the apartments cost at least $1 million), the salespeople are CRAZY ATTENTIVE. I popped into a place that was maybe five or six times the size of my apartment and there were over 20 young people working in there, folding stuff and plumping merchandise and taking inventory and all of them were really eager to assist me with anything I might ever need. I high-tailed it out of there since they freaked me right the hell out.

→ The subway is much nicer when it’s not a thousand degrees outside and a million underground. Much, much nicer. Downside: it’s hard to spot famous people when everyone’s bundled up. I usually see half a dozen writers, actors or media types on public transit but this time, all I saw were lots of pants tucked into boots and circle scarves.

→ In Paris, I’m the only person I’ve seen playing Candy Crush. In New York, every person playing a game on their smartphone is playing Candy Crush. Every single person. There are no non-Candy Crush games on the subway. I, for one, do not welcome our new Candy-crushing overlords.

→ Mexican food is still the best thing on earth to put in your digestive system. I’m fond of Cafe Ollin in Spanish Harlem. Their green chili enchiladas are delish.

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→ Part 1 is here.

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Loot 5: Loot Free or Die Hard

It’s big Hollywood summer blockbuster season which means it’s also time for me to start getting visitors, visitors who tell tales of lands forgotten and bring back plunder!

Part one of this particular loot is all the things an American expat loves: Mexican food and drugs. God bless OTC antihistamines. I love them so much. (Also, cuticle cream.)

Loot 2013 July 1


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!”


Chaak, Mexican in le Forum des Halles

Being a person who loves Mexican food is hard in Europe since there’s (historically) not very good Mex to be had. Part of the problem is surely getting genuine ingredients to the Continent, but there is a demand out there (usually promulgated by Americans and Europeans who’ve lived in the US), so places do exist.

Chaak was one that I’d been meaning to try for some time. The location listed on their site is in an area that I haven’t been to in a while, so it kept getting bumped down the list. When I went to see Skyfall at the big mall in the center of town I found that they’d opened a location right by the theater, so I stopped by.

You can’t tell from the photo, but I got three different tacos: meat, pork and chicken, each with a different sauce (pico de gallo, red chile and green chile, respectively). Sour cream and guac were both additional, I chose guac.

You also can’t tell that the tortillas were cold. Like, from the fridge, cold. The guy who made them pulled them out of a metal warmer which apparently wasn’t turned on because they were properly chilly. This was a very bad start. None of the three sauces had any real spice to them and the pico de gallo especially just added a flavor of “wet.”

Of the three fillings, I strongly recommend against the beef as it was tough and also wet, swimming in the juices that had long since seeped from the actual fiber. The chicken was also diced up so finely that it was reminiscent of ham cubes at a salad bar. The pork was basically just like the carnitas from Chipotle, which is to say all right, and at least had some flavor of a spice rub or some kind of seasoning.

Bottom line

In a perfect world, I’d never go here again. In the world in which I live, where I actually frequent a business that’s right next to this place, I’ll probably go back one more time and ask for heated tortillas with the pork. But I won’t be happy about it.