CHEAP EATS The hawks are looking hungry. My chickens are scared. Me too. We spend a lot of time in the bushes, plucking and preening and trying to act casual. And while they’re scratching for bugs, I’m collecting dandelion greens for my salad. The price of lettuce has literally brought me to my knees.
You’re thinking: Lettuce? The price of lettuce?
Yeah, well, maybe you don’t know how much salad I eat. (A: a lot.) My favorite statistic says that when they have unlimited access to grass, chickens will eat it more than anything. Up to two-thirds of their diet will be green. That’s why true free-range eggs glow the way they do, the yolks. And true free-range chicken farmers glow too, in case you haven’t noticed.
Because probably two-thirds of what I eat are greens. And the other third, instead of bugs and spiders and stuff that chickens eat, is chickens; and chicken-fried steak; and big, bloody, rare burgers; and, of course, eggs.
All of which has nothing to do with what I’m doing in the bushes, let alone my new favorite restaurants. I’m on a secret surveillance mission. The mission: to find out how my escape-artist chicken, Houdini II, is finding her way out of the chicken yard and into the neighbor’s flower bed.
The method: to learn to think like a chicken, eat like a chicken, fear like a chicken, crave neighbors’ flower beds like a chicken, escape like a chicken, and, failing all that, to cut a chicken’s head off and make gumbo out of her.
My chicken-farmerly reputation hangs in the balance, like, like, like … like a foot-tied headless chicken draining into a bucket. Also at stake: the copaceticness of my relationship with certain flower bedhaving neighbors.
But all this talk of blood and gore and ruffled feathers is reminding me of my weekend last weekend, when I got to go to my ex-wife Crawdad’s baby shower and hug my ex-mother-in-law, Crawma, for the first time in my new format.
She didn’t recognize me, I don’t think.
"Crawdad," I said, "introduce me to your mom."
Then she recognized me but did seem a little weirded out, and who could blame her? It was a baby shower! What could be weirder? Everything was nice and pretty and cute, and afterward I needed to go to the roller derby.
I have a new favorite sport!
The Richmond Wrecking Belles beat the crap out of the SF Shevil Dead, and I ate a hot dog. But you’re probably more interested in Saul’s Delicatessen, huh?
Saul’s is Berkeley’s way of saying "hey" to New York. And just like Zachary’s does Chicago pizza better than Chicago (you ask me), I believe Saul’s would out-apple the Apple in belly-to-belly competition. But what do I know? I’m just a chicken farmer.
Well, sure, because of local-grown organic produce and Neiman Marcus designer meats, Saul’s might boast. But I like it better than New York for my usual reason: it’s closer. By a lot. And they have everything Jewish and wonderful, like potato latkes, blintzes, matzo ball soup, and so on. And bagels.
I got salami and eggs, and it was great. I mean, the eggs were just eggs, because we didn’t make them, me and my girls, but the salami was good and plentiful, and the latke, which you can get instead of hash browns for a buck-fifty extra … it’s worth it.
I love latkes. They’re those potato and onion pancakes, you know, served with applesauce and sour cream. I love that they were used, according to Jewish legend, to put some Assyrian meanie to sleep and then chop off his head.
And I love Saul’s. It’s a cheerful, comfortable place to hang out. I sat there with my new friend Thingpart, the famous five-minute cartoonist, and we blah blah blah blah blah’d like two old hens for way more than five minutes. We must have sat there for over two hours, I’m thinking, because what we ate was breakfast, and it was lunchtime by the time I left. And between this, the beautiful day that day, a great soccer match, a baby shower, and the Bay Area Derby Girls, I was one happy happy farmer.
Last weekend. But now it’s the work week, and, if you’ll excuse me, I have to whip up a potato latke, so to speak, for one of my girls. Here, Houdini! *
Mon.Thurs. and Sun., 8 a.m.9 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 8 a.m.9:30 p.m.
1475 Shattuck, Berk.
Beer, wine, and cocktails