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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A Dream of Spring

Will this season never end? Are we truly living in Westeros?

Here are some spring peas from last year that I cooked up with some mushrooms, garlic and green onions. They were so fresh and bright … god, I miss food that tastes happy.

Alas! Sun-kissed vegetables I once knew.

Alas! Sun-kissed vegetables I knew some once.

I bought some peas over the weekend and they tasted like preschool paste. An apple from the other week was mealy. Bananas are always a safe bet but they’re boring and I don’t like them. When will spring come? Where are the strawberries?

I’m not holding my breath

Before A Dream of Spring, the proposed seventh title in George RR Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, we must get the sixth book, The Winds of Winter. I might have been able to put up with this interminable season if I’d had the several hundred pages that the book’s sure to be to keep me company but I didn’t. I’m not sure which thing annoys me more.

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The Diner Experience

My brother had a Spanish girlfriend who, on her first visit to the US, freaked the hell out when he took her to a diner. It was way too much for her. She’d never seen a menu with so many pages listing countless options of things and then, when she actually ordered, there were so many other choices to make that she hadn’t anticipated. And then the portions were so big and numerous that she was totally overwhelmed.

If you’ve been to a decent diner, none of this will come as a surprise to you because this is just how diners operate, but she’d never experienced such a thing.

For the first time since I left the States in 2005, being in a diner reminded me of her, not because the story was funny, but because I totally empathized with her position. The menu in diners *is* way too long. Several pages of small print listing hundreds of combinations, covering all possible meals, usually supplemented by a “daily specials” list is more than one person can handle. New Yorkers think the rent’s too damn high? Their menus are too damn long.

Anyway, I thought of this story when I went to a diner for my last dinner in New York and had a mini-breakdown while ordering something totally simple off the chalkboard so that I wouldn’t have to open the opus of edibles on offer.

Me: I’ll have the roast turkey special with a seltzer please.
Waiter: What kind of soup? Matzo, chicken noodle, vegetable, onion —
Me: Matzo!

1. Diner matzo ball soup
Waiter: What kind of dressing? Italian, thousand island, French —
Me: Ranch!

[I didn’t take a picture of the salad because it wasn’t in any way exciting.]

Waiter: Two vegetables; mashed potato, French fries, green beans, corn —
Me: Ah! Mashed and beans!

Canned beans haricots verts.

Canned beans ≠ haricots verts.

At this point in my head I was thinking, “Christ, please go away because I can’t make any more choices and you’re totally stressing me out,” but then he asked if we wanted bread and an extra bowl of gravy and I just yelled, “Yes! Yes!” and he ran away because I looked crazy.

The meal was good and totally worth the trouble, but I can tell you that I am very happy to be back in a place where you get two, maybe three, options for each course and that’s it. Too much choice is paralyzing.

2. Diner turkey dinner


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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


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Mini-poivron

orange peppers 1

They’re so mignon!

These brightly colored peppers are sold at my green grocer along with some banana-yellow ones and some brick-red ones, but the orange are my favorite. They are really small (shorter than a finger) and have a sweet yet hearty flavor and they’ve become my new shallots.

orange peppers 3

Mini-peppers with chicken and lentils.

orange peppers 2

Mini-pepper and cheddar quesadilla with guac.


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New obsession: shallots

Is this a thing? Do other people become weirdly obsessed with bulb vegetables? They don’t even really look that appetizing.

shallots 1

And yet, I can’t get enough of the little oniony garlicy hybrids. I’m worried about what effect this kind of consumption is having on my breath, but I can’t stop myself. A couple times a week, I cook up a batch and then have them on hand to add to a regular salad or on top of soup. My favorite though, is adding them to my (mayo-free) chicken salad.

Le cul’s chicken salad:

  1. Blend a little bit of olive oil with a good quality mustard, salt, pepper and parsley.
  2. Shred warm cooked chicken and add to mixture.
  3. Sprinkle with crunchy shallots.

    shallots 2

    The shallots look a bit like bacon but, sadly, they are not bacon. Mmmm, bacon.