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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Winter shorn

Got my haircut again since I’m trying to make going a more regular thing. The woman asked me how much I wanted to cut off and I indicated about five inches. (I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to adopt the metric system). “So much?” she asked. She didn’t think it was a good idea. “Yeah,” I told her. “That much.”

We went back and forth a little bit, which I didn’t particularly care for and she asked me *why* I wanted to cut so much off. “It’s winter and what with hats and scarves, it’s just much easier to have shorter hair.” She looked at my reflection, narrowed her eyes a bit and nodded. “That’s true. Ok.” Apparently, I needed to convince her before she’d get to work.

Buff logoAs I said “scarves” to her, I had a word epiphany. The Spanish for scarf is bufanda, a pretty great word on its own. There’s a popular brand of Spanish-made head/neckwear called Buff® (you may know them as the official bandanas of CBS’s SURVIVOR). I’ve always made fun of Buffs because the company pronounces its name /bo͞of/ with a long vowel sound like “boot” despite being spelled like a word which already exists /bəf/.

Teen Wolf Boof

If you know why this pic is here, we can discuss being friends, but I won’t make any promises.

But in the chair at the hair place, I realized that those silly Spaniards took the first syllable from “scarf” and added a letter to the end, just for the hell of it. Again, if someone would just run these ideas by me first, I’d be able to help them out, but alas, they must continue to live like ignoramuses. [Ed. Reading their website proves me right. I love being right!]

Wear Something

Buffs® are actually awesome. I have a ton. I wear them while doing yoga to keep the hair out of my face, while bike riding to keep the sweat out of my face and when the temperature drops a little to keep the cold off my face neck. There are a bunch of kinds; cotton, wool, fleece-lined, knit, double-layered, reflective, UV. I don’t know you, but I am sure there is a Buff for you. You should get one. Or five. There are a million ways to wear them. Let the Basque sheep show you how.


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Roughage rabies

When my best friend was in town for a day, I took him to my favorite pizza place in Paris. We shared a fixed price menu of two pizza choices and a salad. The latter was not to my liking. I blamed the roquette lettuce (too bitter) and he told me that it was arugula.

This was one of those words from my previous life that feel like they’re trapped in a fog in my mind. I knew that arugula was a kind of lettuce but hadn’t been in an English store in so long, I couldn’t remember what it looked like. Plus, I was sure it was roquette lettuce and told him so. “I think it must be the same as ‘rocket lettuce’ which I’m pretty sure exists.” He agreed that “rocket lettuce” is a thing but assured me that he was eating all the arugula because I didn’t like the arugula.

It was one of those annoying moments that stuck in my mind and was so irksome because I was almost 100% certain that I was right but I wasn’t 100% certain that he was wrong.

You see where this is going, right? You’ve probably known all along what it took me ages to figure out: arugula and roquette and rocket are the same thing. Stupid languages, making me second-guess myself.

Arugula roquette rocket

Check something out

America’s Test Kitchen, the TV and podcast division of Cook’s Illustrated, is the best. (Today’s screen shot is from their online cooking school.) In one of my parallel lives, I stayed in Boston and worked for them, testing cooking equipment and taste-testing cheeses and developing the easiest fool-proof recipes. Their TV show is the best of its kind since it’s about cooking, science, consumer information and food. Their website and newsletter are also significantly great.

Lessons the Cos taught me

I call all kinds of lettuce “roughage” because that’s what Bill Cosby did on his show in the 80s. Remember when the whole country watched the same thing every night at the same time? That’s totally weird to think about now, especially if you actually go back and watch some of those old shows. Most of them are not good.

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Stupid Italian rabies

Chunk, Jake, Francis, (Francis’s toupee) and Mama Fratelli

How is it possible that I just now realized that the villains in THE GOONIES, the Fratellis, are “brothers” in Italian? I mean, I thought I knew just about everything about the best all-ages adventure tale that ever was. I even knew that the Scottish band The Fratellis took their name from the characters in the movie but I am just now putting together that the two brothers with mommy issues who scheme against each other and their simpler, slower sibling are called The Brothers? Rabies!!!

tonyhale hey brother

This is just unacceptable. If Buster Bluth had ever studied Roman irrigation systems or something even more useless, this epiphany would have happened a decade earlier.

Further Thinking: Is THE GOONIES Richard Donner’s best film? I crazylove SUPERMAN II and have an 80s kid’s fondness for LETHAL WEAPON, but GOONIES is perfect in every way and timeless, so I think it might be. Other opinions welcome.

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String Bean Arm

My sister was totally grossed out by my dirty distorted foot (um, that was partly the point), so I thought I’d add another pic that makes me look all deformed. (It’s really hard to take pics of one’s own body.)

Attack of the Foot-Long Beans!

Attack of the Foot-Long Beans!

To me, these things are called judías because the only time I ever had reason to call them anything was in Spain. Sometimes I’d help my grandparents’ housekeeper shell a big bunch, but as the task was significantly tedious, I would often “accidentally” send some of the beans flying and would be dismissed from assisting any longer. My sister claims to have done it for hours but I don’t buy that. (We didn’t eat them that often.)

Anyway, my sister’s also the person who pointed out a while ago that a whole continent of people call string beans “Jewesses” (as that’s what judías are, female Jews) and, despite generally thinking that politically correct language has gone way too far and that people should just chill the hell out about a lot of things, even I have a problem with this based solely on the fact that I don’t see any connection. Even the Real Academia Española doesn’t explain anything beyond that the name may have come from Latin iudaeus from the Hebrew yəhūdī [Jew] but I don’t see what’s particulary Jewish about them in any case. Anyone have a clue?


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!”