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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Bachelor Food: tortilla for one

A Spanish tortilla is simple to make but not easy to get right. It’s also a lot of food for one person, but one cold December day, I cracked the case. My solution was to make individual tortillas in muffin tins.

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This recipe is very easy and more fool-proof than a traditional tortilla.

Ingredients

potato (I buy a bachelor-sized variety called pompadour)
egg
salt
pepper
olive oil
butter (optional)
muffin tins

Steps

  1. Peel and thinly slice potato.
  2. Fry in batches. (Don’t crowd the chips or they’ll get soggy and won’t crisp.)
  3. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Salt.
  4. Layer the cooked chips into a muffin tin, forming a base, then prop chips along the side to create a tower / cone around the center. Continue to fill in with chips until the tin is almost full. (The tin can be buttered to ease the removal of the finished tortilla, but isn’t necessary.)
  5. Beat one egg in a small bowl, season, carefully pour over the potatoes. One egg should be the right amount for a standard muffin tin.
  6. Place tins in a pre-heated toaster oven and cook until egg is done to your liking. (If the top is still raw, blast the broiler for a minute, keeping an eye on the tortilla the whole time. Broilers are serious heating elements.)
  7. Let cool for a few minutes and unmold.
  8. Dig in.

They dun got me

Even though I’m no longer in the news biz, I still get annoyed when I get scooped. One would think that a recipe wouldn’t be scoopable, but the week after I had my bachelor tortilla brain wave, Melissa Clark, the New York Times’s way-too-perky food writer did a whole thing about tortilla. I was at least pleased that they made a very basic and telling mistake right in the first line: in Spanish, nationalities aren’t ever capitalized so if you’re going to go through the trouble of making an ñ, you should at least make sure your other punctuation is correct.

Melissa Clark tortilla FAILThe less said about the sentiment of her lede the better. I’m hoping it was some kind of attempt at being cutesy and not a display of out right ignorance since a professional food writer should know that often the simplest foods are the best ones.

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Housekeeping

Updates on stuff I’ve written and your comments.

Citymapper Paris→ The CityMapper app I raved about has added Paris! Everything’s coming up Milhouse in 2014! You can get it here!

→ Even though I am of the female persuasion, my feelings about stuff like Title IX and gender diversity on company boards are at odds. When dealing with historical figures and their cultural importance, I have even more uncomfortable feelings because I do think it’s important to recognize the roles that people played in making the world what it is today… but I don’t like the idea of digging people up and burying them somewhere else just to make a political point. This is something that’s being suggested at the Panthéon here in Paris, which I wrote about a while back, specifically citing that I liked the male-centric wording of the engraving over the entrance. (To be totally clear, partly what I liked about the sentiment is its Lady-doth-protest-too-much exceptionalism about French men.)

→ Speaking of exceptionalism, I wrote about the American kind ages ago and “The Atlantic” reports that its era is over. What’s the opposite of chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”? “Boo-hoo for us”?

→ An alternate take on purging is to buy better quality things. I used to do this regularly, but since I’ve been living out of suitcases for over eight years, I realized that buying excellent new versions of stuff I already owned was foolish. Hence, lots of repeat crap. Kelly’s point about French women is true though — all the closets I’ve seen personally have very little clothes in them but those things tend to be très nice and more expensive.

→ Some dude picked a fight with me over on Suzanne and Pierre’s blog about, get this, SPAIN. At least he shut up once he realized that, in addition to not getting involved in a land war in Asia or going against a Sicilian when death is on the line, challenging me when I talk shit about Spaniards is a classic blunder which is best avoided.

→ I am not crazy. This is a thing which bears repeating, if only in a low voice to myself. My love of The Great Brain book series is apparently a *totally normal* thing. It’s so within the realm of not extraordinary things that Brian Koppelman is comfortable making an off-hand reference to one of the characters in the books and Seth Myers just goes with it, apparently knowing that being compared to the Brain’s little brother is an epic insult.

Labyrinth_Worm→ I got into a LABYRINTH appreciation party over on “Bread is Pain” and then a stupid BuzzFeed quiz* proved that I am, in fact, the Worm.  I *am* generally good about giving directions (except when I’m not).

*Is this redundant? Is there any kind of BuzzFeed quiz that *isn’t* stupid?


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Metropolitan diaries and cockroaches

Do you know about “Metropolitan Diary”? It’s a weekly column in the New York Times that prints letters from readers about funny New York moments. (Sometimes there are poems which are dreadful, but if you just skip them, the amusement ratio is high.)

Digging through the file I keep of things that make me laugh, I came across one from January 2010 that still cracks me up and is totally appropriate to reprint here.

Dear Diary:

I was recently reminded of an event years ago, when I was living in New York City.

We were visiting Toronto, and were at a very nice French restaurant downtown. As we were seated, the maître d’, with a flourish, took my wife’s napkin and placed it on her lap. When repeating the effort for me, the flourish released a large cockroach hiding in the napkin!

It crawled down my leg, hit the floor, and with (what I thought was) a smooth action, I violently dispatched the critter.

Without batting an eye, the maître d’ said, “Monsieur must be from New York City.”

We received a complimentary bottle of wine!

Richard Freeman

Read more

One letter from the Diary is printed online every day and isn’t behind a paywall. Reading it may count against however many articles one can read for free a month. I’m not really sure how that works.


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Links / Enlaces / Liens

One Link...

One Link…

On this day, God said, “Let there be links!” and there was much rejoicing.

→ France’s continued problems assimilating immigrants into the culture is against the founding principle of the Republic; Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. But, writes Justin Smith in a NYT Op-Ed piece, the French can justify everything:

“…when equality is invoked … it is understood that this is equality *among equals*.”

Other interesting thoughts on the perceptual differences between expats and immigrants in France follow. (Spoiler: one group is welcomed, the other reviled.) 

→ David Crystal is my new Richard Lederer! If either of those names mean anything to you, you are a word nerd and we can be friends. Leonard Lopate reran an interview with the former over the holidays. Crystal’s books The Story of English in 100 Words and Spell It Out are currently top-lining my ebook reader. Tl;dr — the French are to be blamed for everything wrong with the English language (see 1066). 

→ Stefan Stasse, the German co-host of my favorite ASOIAF podcast, posted the second in a series of occasional podcasts he’s doing with a history PhD candidate about different cultural perspectives vis à vis Important Historical Events. In this most recent episode they discuss what Europeans know about the American Civil War and how Americans understand WWII. Asking Germans about the war (even though you’re not supposed to mention it) is a hobby of mine, though you really have to get to know one before you broach the subject. They’re pretty touchy about it. 

→ Speaking of die Deutschen: “Not one frown in the place, which is exceptionally rare for such a large gathering of German people.” The blog Oh God, My Wife Is German is consistently amusing to me.

Two Links!

Two Links!

→ Boston neighborhoods corresponded to their Manhattan equivalents (based on median rent). Interesting to compare the two and see what the locals value most in each city. Freakishly (or maybe totally predictably), my dream neighborhoods in each city are counterparts.

→ Do you ever get totes emosh about something and think, “I can’t EVEN handle this because”? If you have no idea what any of that means, you need to read “A Defense of Internet Linguistics” cuz it’s amazeballz. 

→ Wikipedia “is like walking into a mental hospital: the floors are carpeted, the walls are nicely padded, but you know there’s a pretty good chance at any given moment one of the inmates will pick up a knife.” 

→ My brother, the only other person I know who also loves podcasts a lot, told me that 60 Minutes is available in an audio-only format. I got crazy excited about this since the show was, as the NYT once said, “one of the most esteemed newsmagazines on American television.” The writing is significantly less good than it used to be — any given story has copy filled with clichés or misuses of words like “literally” — but they still report some fun things. 


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Things I Learned in New York, Part 1

→ The kind of underwear I’ve been buying for years was discontinued. This meant a trip to Macy’s to find a new kind. “Intimate apparel,” a euphemism I loathe for how pervy it sounds, is located on one of the top floors, necessitating riding up the wooden escalators. I think I always forget these, the first of their kind in the world, exist so that I can be surprised every time I go up them. They’re worth a visit, if nothing else to make you take a moment and think, “Man, escalators used to be wooden and made horrible clacking sounds.”

→ Even though I might not need reminding, when taking the subway to Macy’s, I think of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET and get off at 34th (Herald Square).

Korea Way NYC→ Right by Macy’s: the best couple blocks in the whole of the continental US. 24-hour Korean food street. Every damn day of the year. Whenever you want it. It’s too upsetting if I think about it for long.

→ It is not advisable to eat four cheeseburgers in two weeks. This having been established, I will surely try for five next time.

→ There is no such thing as too much Korean though, as I ate it at least five times in the same time period. A favorite is MANDOO BAR  [site] because you can watch them make all the yummy mandoo [dumplings] in the window, it’s pretty fast and they serve super-cold drinks. Downside: their bathroom is not insulated.

→ Paragon Sports [site], a kind of snobby sporting goods store near Union Square, sells Wigwam brand wool socks. These are my favorite winter socks since they’re thick and warm and don’t fall down. Sadly, I’d already bought two pairs of wool socks from JCrew (they were on sale) and couldn’t justify getting more pairs, which is just as well since they wouldn’t have fit in my suitcase anyway. But now I know.

→ Cheerios that haven’t crossed oceans of time to find me taste noticeably fresher. Another point in the column of how unfair life is.

Unrelated, but everything about this is perfect (via)

NSA v NWA