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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Word Mystery: cheese / queso / fromage

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

It seems pretty unfair to me that in any decent city in the US you can get good cheese sticks, but that in a country that’s known for its cheese, you can’t.

American cheesesticks

These are some I got at 10 in the damn morning at a diner in New York and they were perfect. They were fried just right and had the right kind of seasoning on the breading and they were served with warm marinara sauce.

Any time I’ve seen cheese sticks on menus here, they’re served with sweet-and-sour sauce. Sweet-and-sour sauce! Like the kind in Chinese restaurants! It’s too upsetting to get into further so instead of letting my mood turn sour, I’ll get on with today’s Mystery.

EN → cheese — a food made from the pressed curds of milk. ORIGIN Old English cēse, cȳse; related to Dutch kaas and German Käse; from Latin casĕus [cheese].

ES → quesoProducto obtenido por maduración de la cuajada de la leche con características propias para cada uno de los tipos según su origen o método de fabricación. [Product obtained through the aging of milk curd, with unique characteristics according to its origin or preparation.] ORIGIN Latin casĕus.

FR → fromageProduit alimentaire obtenu par coagulation du lait, égouttage du caillé ainsi obtenu et, éventuellement, affinage. [Food product obtained by curdling milk, draining the curb thus obtained and, eventually, refining it.] ORIGIN Old French formage from Low Latin formaticus casĕus [molded cheese].

Catalan note: I should say here that my favorite way to talk about curdled milk is the Catalan as it’s the most fun to say formatge [fohr-MAH-tcha].

French note: Odd that they took the adjective and adopted it. It’s like how the Spanish call that one band “Los Rolling,” not knowing in their infinite cluelessness that they sound like idiots.

If life were fair, Latin would be the winner today since it was the unlikely source for all three words today. But if life were fair, I’d be able to get good cheese sticks anywhere at any time, so I’m going to declare that no one wins today. Take that, Latin!

Related:

queso cheese sauce


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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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Not in a pickle

Boar's Head pepperoni sandwichOne of the few items that made it into my bag on the way back from the US was this little pack of Boar’s Head pepperoni. As I was back in France, I had to class it up a bit, so I lightly spread butter on some good bread layered with cornichons and it was spectacular. Pickles are too big for me to enjoy, but a cornichon is a wonderous creation.

Learn something

Boar's head logoBoar’s Head meats are the best you can get in the US [site]. The company’s been around for almost 100 years and they somehow cure, roast and smoke the most incredible stuff. They also make cheese that’s equally delicious. If you’re ever looking for a good deli, check to see if they have the company’s logo in their window.

Learn something else

Pepperoni is an entirely American salami. (I’ve mentioned this before.) Snobs will tell you that since it’s not Italian, it’s a) not good or b) shouldn’t be on a pizza. As usual, snobs are wrong. Among the sausage’s many attributes are its consistency (no globs of fat), its slight spice and its perpetual eatability. I love other sausages too, but I would never be able to eat a quarter pound of, say, spicy soppressata in one sitting but I could totally do that with some ‘roni. This last thing is also part of what makes it American.

Be amused by something

Even though the appearance of the artisanal pickle was one of the early signs of the current Hipster-pocalypse, it can still be the source of comedy. Last year, “The New Yorker” published a four-part story by Simon Rich called Sell Out which is really funny and a clever indictment of everything that I think is wrong with America today. (Conversely, if you love what’s happening in the culture, you will also find your beliefs vindicated.) The story is *not* behind a paywall, so you can read it and then decree that everything “Is fine” in a knowing manner. [ETA: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]

Last thing

“To be in a pickle” is a phrase that means “to be in a messy or difficult situation.” I imagine that being in a vat filled with vinegar and salt would be both of those 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


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God Bless America, Part 3

Prepping for my trip stateside, I proceeded to make lists. If I didn’t have my notebook handy, I’d fire up Any.do, the free app I use mostly for grocery shopping. I usually type in things that the app doesn’t recognize, like chix, which is my abbreviation for chicken, or ous, which is Catalan for eggs. So when I started to type in an item that I love, I was certain it wouldn’t autocomplete. I was wrong.

I don't know what "crunch back" is.

I don’t know what “crunch back” is.

Sadly, Cap’n Crunch’s Oops! All Berries is a limited-time cereal and wasn’t available from FreshDirect or Target.

Happily, when I got to my brother’s apartment, there was a box of the stuff in his cupboards. After recovering from my yell of surprise and contentment, I asked him what in hell it was doing there. “I saw them at the store one time and I thought you liked them but I forgot to mail them. It was a long time ago.”

Looking at the top of the box, the package indicated that the contents had indeed passed their sell-by date several months earlier. (Like, a whole lot of months.) Knowing that the contents were 100% chemical and that the only thing that could possibly happen to them was that they’d start degrading by half-lifes (apparently the correct plural of “half-life”), I opened it up. And ate a couple. And the eating was good, so I poured some into a bowl and washed them down with my Nice! milk. And I ate the whole box over ten days and it was glorious.

Even the milk in America is friendly.

Even the milk in America is friendly.