Le cul entre les deux chaises

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


Leave a comment

Very Important Peanuts

Honestly, the name alone would have gotten me to buy these peanuts I came across at the Monoprix near my Opéra movie theaters.

ViP 1

That I also happen to love peanuts and am fond of both barbecue and Indian food meant that I was definitely going to buy them.

ViP 2

“Warning may contain nuts”

That these “New York” peanuts were totally unfamiliar to me is not surprising since there’s nothing New York or even American about them.

These "New York" peanuts can even be found "as far afield as the US."

These “New York” peanuts can even be found “as far afield as the US.”

That they tasted not very much at all like barbecue or Indian food should not have come as a shock. That they were well roasted and not at all greasy was.

ViP 4

Verdict: would eat again though I wouldn’t seek them out.

Advertisements


4 Comments

Word Mystery: shower head / alcachofa / pomme de douche

Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

Exactly like it happened to me. (Except it not being a bath. And me not being a man. Or Greek. Or bearded. Or super buff.)

Exactly like it happened to me. (Except it not being a bath. And me not being a man. Or Greek. Or bearded. Or super buff.)

Well, that was surprising. Not long after an exchange with Suzanne about what things they’ll find odd when they move back to Canada, I found myself a bit confused in an American shower because I’d unknowingly adapted to those European hand shower nozzle spray things. It was weird to realize that I’d have to turn my actual body around if I wanted to rinse off instead of moving the nozzle around me. A little difference, but one that I never would have expected to get used to since I really hated those damn things for a long time.

Then, like Archimedes before me, I exclaimed “Eureka!” when I realized that there was both a Euro Adapter moment and a Word Mystery just over my head like an idea bulb.

EN → shower head — a perforated nozzle that distributes water over a focal point of use, generally overhead of the bather. ORIGIN of shower: Old English scūr [light fall of rain, hail].

ES → alcachofaPieza agujereada por donde sale el agua de la regadera o de la ducha. [Holey piece from which water comes out in a watering can or the shower.] ORIGIN Hispanicized Arabic al-ḵaršūfa possibly from Pahlavi (Middle Iranian) *hār čōb [spiny stick].

FR → pomme de doucheElément, généralement arrondi, percé de multiples trous. [Generally round piece pierced by multiple holes.] ORIGIN Latin poma [fruit (plural)].

alcachofa showerSpanish Note: the definition given is the seventh of seven listed by the RAE. The first one is for the edible plant “artichoke” but once I learned that I showered under an artichoke every day, this definition became my favorite. If you look at one with this in mind, you can see how it resembles the cross section of a ‘choke.

Today’s Winner: Tough again today. I came into the WM already favoring alcachofa, but I hadn’t known that pomme, a much-used word in French, meant “fruit”. Then I imagined Richard Burton saying scūr (his reading of Beowulf is the only time I’ve actually heard Old English spoken) and I really like the sound of that…so I don’t know. Spanish, I guess? Other opinions welcome.

Since I apparently only reference SNL or Monty Python

It’s worth mentioning that Archimedes is the one who finally initiates the winning goal in the “Philosophers’ Football” sketch, easily my favorite football match of all time. It almost makes me feel bad for the Germans to lose so badly. (Just remember: Don’t mention the war!)

[Ed. The editorial board has determined that a FAWLTY TOWERS reference counts as MONTY PYTHON, so double negative points for lack of originality.]


2 Comments

Eggplant that doesn’t taste like cardboard!

eggplant 1

My reflection is camouflaged because I am all in purple.

Eggplant (which is actually a fruit!!!) is a thing I’ve tried to get behind for many years, primarily because it’s one of the few purple foods out there. There’s something oddly appealing about having my outsides match my insides. (I wear a lot of purple because life is a lot easier if you don’t have to think about whether your clothes matches, a tip I picked up from Albert Einstein. And purple is clearly the best color, obviously.)

But, try as I might, I couldn’t ever find a way to eat the stuff that made it even vaguely taste good. Then I saw this video about how some place in Brooklyn makes their eggplant sandwiches and I realized that the secret was double-frying.

Sadly, I don’t have a frier at home (though I remember one apartment I looked into renting in Barcelona had one as a built-in, something I never got over), so I did something more reasonable. I cut my lovely round eggplant into thick slices which I placed on a bed of kosher salt on a paper towel and then sprinkled with more salt. I let the slices rest for a good while and then wiped them dry. Next, I quickly fried them in medium-hot oil and patted them dry again. Another quick fry, in much hotter oil this time, and they were good to go.

Placed on good toasted pain de campagne with a smear of Saint-félicien (my new favorite cheese), some spinach and a dusting of freshly ground pepper… this is a fruit-masking-as-a-vegetable that I could eat all the time.

eggplant 2


109 Comments

Basic spy craft for daily use

The bus stop nearest my house doesn’t have a shelter so when it rains, which is most of the time, people huddle under the awning of the bakery up the block or the alcove of a building nearer the route. On a rainy day like the dozens of others I’ve experienced here, I was in the latter spot with an elderly lady and I ducked out and reached the stop exactly as the bus pulled up, hopping directly on.

The lady sat down next to me once she’d gotten away from the protection of the building and hobbled over to the curb. “How did you know it was coming?” she asked. “The window,” I said, generally indicating a storefront receding behind us. Then I said, “La vitrine,” since a shop or display window is not the same as the kind you have in your house. She looked confused, so I clarified that it was the reflection of the approaching bus in the window which I’d seen. Her eyes got wide. “Like spies,” I said, trying to express, in just a few words, that I have read or seen hundreds of spy stories and watching for stuff in reflective surfaces is basic spy craft.

The conversation ended abruptly with a look that I’ve come to know all too well, one that says, “what a fearsome creature you are,” since it’s apparently not nice for young ladies to put classic espionage techniques into use on a daily basis.

I figured that my affinity for spy stories was where this habit came from, but then I heard an interview with novelist Attica Locke which presented an alternate reason.

In America, there is a feeling of always walking through life as a woman with the knowledge of violence around a corner.

And I think this is, while being very sad, more likely to be the source of my spying habits. If I wanted to, I could feel deflated that I grew up in a culture where I was constantly threatened by the sheer amount of violence around me as well as the possibility of violence being perpetrated upon me. But the truth is that, barring the many bikes I’ve had stolen, nothing bad has ever happened to me, so maybe my hyper-vigilance has paid off.

So, here are my basic tips for keeping safe:

  • Check reflections and shadows
  • Keep your back to the wall
  • Always know where your exits are
Can you find me? (Chicago, 2006)

Can you find me? (Chicago, 2006)

[Related]