Frenchie and the American Robots

12 Mar

Americans are programmed!

Yes, they are!

Well, I’m almost certain they are.

I should add that I strongly believe they unknowingly might get programmed at birth. Or so it seems.

It appeared to me very early on when I moved here.

And my research lead me to conclude that Americans were in fact implanted with the HHRU chip.

A chip so effective and cunning only the CIA could be involved in such a coverup of “chipping” babies without parents noticing.

Parents who themselves are probably chipped anyway.

Have you not heard of the HHRU chip?

It’s not an urban legend. Oh it’s out there!

The HiHowRU chip! Yes, it’s been around for decades!

As a young Parisian moving to 123 Kind Rd, Beautiful Green Friendly Midwest, USA, it takes a while to adapt to the gallons of niceness poured over brand new transplants and foreigners.

Coated I was! Coated with sticky, gooey, sweet kindness. Almost like a peanut brittle feels on your teeth and fingers after eating too much of it – and I have eaten a lot of it!

There I was – a human peanut brittle! All nicely coated. Except for the crunchiness… although… But I shouldn’t switch the topic.

Walking along Lake Michigan with friends on a Midwestern summery Sunday morning, leisurely enjoying the soft sun and the sounds of the small waves crashing near by, my peace and quiet was always ultimately disturbed and spammed by unfamiliar high-pitched noises. Hi how you are today?

HIIII, good morning!

‘Morning, folks!

I have to admit something. The first time I heard those noises, I panicked. If you’re new and you don’t know the Law of the Land, you can be overwhelmingly clueless on how to properly ignore and shush those noises away.

Oh la la! I thought. Who are those pesky people demanding to be noticed and acknowledged asking me how I’m doing today. None of your business…. how rude!

And I noted to my friends You do know a lot of people! Look, they all wave and smile.

We don’t know them, we’re just friendly here.

And there I was! Labeled as “not polite”. Put back in my Parisian French box and stuck in it. Get this… I was apparently the one being rude! Moi! 

All those friendly American fingers pointing at French rude me.

The chip works pretty effectively most of the time.

I say most of the time because it can happen that – and I don’t want to sound French-rude – Americans get stuck in some sort of never-ending-friendly-loop, which tells me they need to release a new version of that HHRU chip très bientôt.

Have you ever seen someone’s chip bugging? Or with an apparent defective firewall almost needing assistance and a good Stepford-Wives-reset?

It goes something like: Hihowareyou?Goodhowareyou?Goodandyou?Good,howareyou?Goodthankyou,andyou?

It’s very hard to get out of this messy loop for some.

Like slapping the TV remote or computer when they start going crazy, it’s awkward to watch it unfold and even more difficult to handle when you are the one being looped in this whirl of we’re-too-polite-to-not-answer-madness.

It’s disturbing. But it’s hilarious when it happens.

The first time I saw it, I had to step back in case of an imminent explosion of the American device. You never know!

The second time, I understood I was safe so I played along with it. The ultimate goal wasn’t to clear the kindly sweet American device from all its cookies and cache. Nor was it to crash the hardware. But introducing a Trojan application for some fun malicious action always makes me giggle.

And here’s how that Trojan malware works. If you finish your sentences with the same interrogative and you? back at Americans, it short circuits the entire system and prolongs the excitement – or at least my excitement.

The loop continues. It just won’t end. Trust me, I’ve tried many times.

Now, you don’t want to end up with a sad Mac icon though so don’t abuse of it. But the sparkles it creates are a definite treat!

My friend “I.” recently told me of a work story, which is the best place EVER to observe these Netiquette loops of friendly American sparkles.

As he was calling someone on the phone and began a normal conversation with the typical mundane Hello?, the robot on the other side of the line had already anticipated my friend’s move and said Good and you? without any prompting question.

Dun Dun Dun!

This is a lot scarier than I had anticipated.

What this means is that HHRU robots have now evolved and are able to think independently and adapt to situations.

They don’t wait to hear for your How are you? first, they sneakily already know what you are about to ask. This is a new breed!

The Japanese must be behind this!

A new era is upon us!

Back in the days, my first reactions to these friendly rather pointed and invasive questions – and I ask, who’s rude after all? – were your typical French behavior when feeling caught and stuck in a corner.

Disbelief. Did he just ask me how I’m doing?

Hypnic jerk. What do I say now?

Recoiling at the invasion of privacy. Do I have to answer?

And then ending with one of the best French facial traits ever invented – the embarrassed non-smile.

A smile without being a smile. A little grin. A hidden-seeming-corner-smile.

Here’s how it works:

The French Program called Movement of the Lips is quickly installed internally.

The muscles are already activated. The upper lip raises a bit; spasming like a blinking cursor.

But ultimately the brain-modem takes over and with a deep internal echoed voice Why do you smile, you don’t know him cancels the entire launch of the French Smile Application.

Oh those French computer programs!

This reminds me of the first time I came face to face with a mac and cheese dish.

There too, I panicked. Again, something sticky, gooey and coated. Oh, it’s coated! Not sweet though, but dramatically orange.

There is no way I am eating an orange sauce I thought! Maybe they won’t notice if I elegantly and casually crash all of them robots on a continuous loop. I thought I’d be able to trick them and mess with the motherboard.

You like mac and cheese, dear?

Think quickly, think quickly. Mess with the system… Trojan application… Good and you?

Oh I love it, that’s why I made it for you! It’s an American classic.

It didn’t work! Reboot! Abort!

I always avoided Gouda as a child. How can an orange cheese be tasty? Must be a Dutch cheese!

What’s in it? I asked twitching.

Macaroni with a cheese sauce, made with orange cheddar.

Chez who? Chez what? I thought. Orange what?

Somehow I managed to avoid eating mac and cheese for years. I stayed far, far away.

And then I found out it also came in a box. I collapsed in the aisle of the supermarket between Rice-A-Roni and all the Kraft products.

But finally one day, I experienced homemade mac and cheese. It was… good!

I always thought it lacked a great deal of herbs and meat. Something spicier, something different. And this cheese sauce just cannot be orange! Period.

Lesson learned over the years: smile when you can, it’s not that bad. It certainly beats the frozen Parisian FNAC and BHV workers.

And when it comes to mac and cheese, well of course I had to make my own recipe. Crafted and improved over the years.

It’s a winner! And it’s not orange, évidemment. It’s actually green, which is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day coming up on Saturday.

It’s packed with Asian basil, gooey with béchamel, including nutritiously digestible whole wheat pasta, flavored with truffle oil, sticky and sharpened with white Irish cheddar cheese and topped with blackened chicken.

Such a kind, friendly, nice dish after all! Non?

And once you dig into your plate and let that round belly stick out because you ate too much of it – trust me, you’re gonna want to go back for seconds – you’ll be able to answer your dinning companions once they ask How are you?… Really good actually, thanks for asking!

Asian Basil Béchamel Mac and Cheese with Truffle Oil Flavors and Blackened Chicken

for the blackened chicken – will make 4 pieces:

1 teaspoon of yellow mustard seeds – crushed to end up with 1.5 teaspoon total

1.5 teaspoon of Maras peppers  – medium heat Turkish pepper

1 teaspoon Aji Panca Chile – mild-heat and fruity Peruvian pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

0.5 teaspoon Ancho Chile – hotter Mexican pepper

0.5 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Prepare a baking sheet and butter it all over.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.

With a mortar and pestle, crush the mustard seeds until ground. Add the other spices, mix and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet until very hot. It should take 5 minutes on high heat.

Use 1 Tbsp of olive per piece to coat the chicken.

Rub the chicken on all sides with the spices. If you have left over, sprinkle it all over.

Delicately place the pieces of chicken in the hot skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side. Repeat the operation twice so they cook 4 minutes on each side total.

When done, place the chicken on the buttered baking sheet and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes per side – 30-40 minutes total. Depending how thick your pieces are, check every 5 minutes to see if the meat is cooked through.

Remove from the oven and let it cool.

for the pasta:

2 cups (~ 227 g) whole wheat pasta – elbows

1 Tbsp of olive oil

Boil salted water in a sauce pan with olive oil.

Cook the pasta until al dente according to the time indicated on the package.

for the béchamel:

1 small onion – finely chopped

4 Tbsp (55 g) of butter

1/4 cup (30 g) of flour

3 cups (70 cl) of whole milk

1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

3-5 drops of truffle oil

3 rosemary sprigs

1.5 cup (67-70 g) Asian basil – tightly packed

1 teaspoon of sea salt


Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and pour the flour delicately over the onion. Stir quickly and make what we call a roux in French.

Continuously stir for 1-2 min. Do not let the roux brown.

Add the milk gradually and whisk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat but do not let it boil.

Turn the heat to low and add the nutmeg and truffle oil. Stir continuously and simmer for 10 minutes, until it thickens a bit.

Prepare a food processor or blender with the basil and rosemary leaves in it. Transfer half of the béchamel in the blender and keep the other half in the pan.

Pulse the béchamel and herbs until combined and very smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Return the basil sauce to the pan. Stir to blend and mix both batches of the béchamel together.

Taste for salt and pepper if necessary as well as nutmeg and truffle oil. If the sauce isn’t thick enough, continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

putting it all together:

0.5 cup (~ 115 g) of shaved Parmesan cheese – tightly packed. I prefer shaved to grated.

1 cup (235 g) of sharp white Irish cheddar – grated

Add the cheeses to the pan. Do not overly mix.

Pour the cooked pasta in the pan over the Asian basil béchamel and cheeses and stir. Make sure the pasta is well-coated in the end.

If you find the sauce isn’t thick enough or that you have too much of it, use a colander to get rid of the excess sauce.

Slice the chicken thinly and serve the pasta warm with chicken on the side or on top.

Sprinkle with the spice mix used for the chicken if you have any left.


14 Responses to “Frenchie and the American Robots”

  1. Jennifer March 12, 2012 at 10:14 AM #

    Haha… This is hilarious! It reminds me of when I first came back from Italy and some man stopped me in the parking lot to ask if he had done something to make me mad. I was confused until he said, “I thought you were glaring at me.” I realized it was just because I was used to not smiling at absolutely everyone. Oh, the midwest…


  2. Karen March 12, 2012 at 10:40 AM #

    It is a good thing you don’t live in Texas…what would you have thought about “howdy”. Your mac and cheese with the blackened chicken sounds great!


  3. Ashlee D. March 12, 2012 at 12:16 PM #

    Great observations! I think it’s also a very Midwestern thing. Us North Easterners have the fame of being “rude”, and not being so quick to greet people. Many Midwestern friends of mine who moved to Philadelphia (my home city), New York, or Boston, etc. went through culture shock because of this. That is not to say that people don’t greet each other, we do. However, the “Hey, how are you?” is more like one greeting, and we don’t necessarily expect to get an answer (terrible, I know!). If someone you don’t know greets you, we get a little suspicious!

    I also notice how Americans are very programmed to say “Sorry” and “Please” and “Excuse me” ad nauseam. When I moved to Spain, where such formalities are unnecessary, I was taken aback. Old ladies bumped into me on the street and didn’t apologize? Someone accidentally brushed their arm against my leg on a crowded bus and didn’t say “Sorry!”? People in a bar just say “Give me two beers” instead of “Would you please give me two beers?”? How rude! However, now I realize Americans say these things more out of habit and often times because of our sense of “personal space”.


  4. Donna A. March 12, 2012 at 3:45 PM #

    Congratulations on crafting your own improved Mac and Cheese…you are now part of the “American melting pot”! (cheese-melting pot?).

    I think they ran out of chips by the time they got to the Northeast because we only have time for a head nod. I can’t help but wonder what Emily Post and Miss Manners (both North Easterners) would have said about all this niceness. 🙂


    • David Santori March 13, 2012 at 7:13 AM #

      Thank you all for commenting and sharing great observations.

      @ Karen, I love “Howdy” when I hear it. Just like “Hi y’all”.

      @ Ashlee, I agree as well.


  5. Lindsey March 13, 2012 at 8:07 AM #

    This is a riot! So true. But isn’t it similar to the “hey, ça va?” that doesn’t usually merit a truly thoughtful response?

    That maccaroni is calling to me!! Looks amazing.


    • David Santori March 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM #

      Thanks so much Lindsey! I truly believe that the “hey, ça va” is a new trend – a real evolution of the French speech pattern possibly coming from American TV shows and movies. I cannot remember ever saying this when I used to live in France. “Salut” yes. Adding “ça va” for friends, yes. But never ever to strangers. And even in small towns, politely nodding and saying “Bonjour Monsieur/Madame” is pretty much the golden rule but asking “ça va”, I just can’t see it.

      I will have to pay attention next time I come to see if I observe it. It’d be pretty funny.


  6. Aidan March 13, 2012 at 11:13 AM #

    Thanks for making me laugh. How do you feel about ‘have a nice day?’ Is it similar enough to bon journee to get by?
    Yummy mac and cheese recette. You should know that I did a little happy American dance in the middle of E. Leclerc when I saw the yellow cheddar. I think they thought I had a problem.

    I’m glad they’re being good to you over in the homeland.
    bisous from yours,


    • David Santori March 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM #

      @ Aidan: Leclerc makes everything better and life sweeter! 🙂


      • Inspired and pretty March 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM #

        Hi, how are you ? Ha ! Ha ! This was sooooo funny, I had a good laugh !
        I really want to try this recipe, but of course it’s impossible for me to find maras peppers, Aji panca chile, Ancho chile or Hungarian paprika in my little town of St-Georges de Beauce. Even fresh nutmeg I’m not sure I can find it…. But…I’ll try it anyway even if it won’t be as good as yours.


      • David Santori March 15, 2012 at 8:23 AM #

        You could replace the Maras peppers with regular freshly ground black pepper. Aji panca could be replaced with Cayenne pepper possibly. Maybe add more mustard seeds and onion powder and remove the Ancho. And use regular sweet paprika. Maybe add a dash of cinnamon for a different taste. I hope it helps.


      • Inspired and pretty March 15, 2012 at 10:34 PM #

        It sure helps, thanks a lot David !



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