Pub date January 23, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS My little brother needs a big sister, and my big sister needs a little one. Chickens need a farmer. Bread needs butter. Earl Butter needs bread. Crawdad de la Cooter needs me to paint a bookshelf. She’s pregnant and can’t breathe the fumes. I’m not, and can. But don’t want to, so she bribes me with K.C. Barbecue or Zachary’s Pizza, then both.

"What time should I be there?"

"How soon can you be here?"

I don’t know. Weirdo the Cat needs warmth and affection. Dishes … My lover needs loving. Need is a strong word, according to Phenomenon. According to Buddhists we’re not supposed to need. But what the fuck? Everybody does, and I do. I need money, grace, hope, and lettuce.

A new stove … I need a new stove with 10 back burners and no front ones because I can’t seem to finish anything anymore. I can clean my plate, and I can clean my ass. Other than that, I’m a mess.

I’m an underachiever. My goal in life is to get my hair cut. I mean, I’ll miss it when I’m doing the dishes, not needing no scrubbies or nothing. But other times, like cooking and eating, it just gets in the way.

Earl Butter calls this the Year of Becoming Better Cooks. And I’m down with that too. Every year is that year for me. So he cleaned his kitchen. I came over after a soccer game, let myself in, and wondered whether I even needed a shower, it smelled so good in there. He had a pot of greens simmering on the stove, a pan of spicy wedged potatoes roasting in it, and a loaf of corn bread cooling on the counter.

Mod the Pod and the Kat Attack were on their way over for dinner, Earl Butter said. Could I do the pork chops?

I could.

"However you want to cook them," he said. Then he proceeded to tell me how to cook them. He said to sprinkle some salt and pepper into a dry, hot frying pan, then put the pork chops in there too.

I ran my fingers through my hair. I stood in front of the stove and held my arms out, basking in the warm, wet aroma of comfort food. Then, considering myself bathed, I put clean clothes on, draped my sweaty soccer stuff over the radiator, washed my hands, cracked my knuckles, and Became Better Cooks with Earl Butter.

And with you, Dear Reader. I’m not that smart, I know, but I think I think about things as much as the next chicken farmer. I have conviction. Something to stand on, a platform. If I were running for president, my platform would be: Hey, America, use your fucking broilers! What the fuck do you think they’re there for?

Sure, I’ve cooked steaks and chops in hot, salted frying pans, and it does work. But so does the broiler. Better. You know that. Everyone knows. The thing is that no one wants to have to wash it afterwards, and that, in a nutshell, is why I can never run for public office. Or private office either. I am unelectable because no one wants to have to clean the broiler pan.

Most of them haven’t been washed in decades. This is a problem, if you know me. If you don’t know me — personally, I mean — then most likely your broiler hasn’t been used in decades. So why clean it? If you do know me, then you know that I love to cook in other people’s kitchens and won’t hesitate to use your broiler. I will promise to wash it. I will eschew your salted frying pans and make a big mess.

I thought about this in Earl Butter’s kitchen while broiling our pork chops, having promised to clean up after. I thought: I can be a forgetful, sleepy chicken farmer, especially after a big, good meal. Hmm …

Sockywonk, Mountain Sam’l, Bikkets, Phenomenon, Choo-Choo, Crawdad, Johnny "Jack" Poetry … um, Earl Butter, and anyone else whose kitchen I have commandeered in the past 10 years … check your broiler. If it looks like a landscape from Star Trek, call me. I’ll bring the Brillo.

My new favorite restaurant is the Citrus Club, just for being there on a cold, rainy night in the Haight. I was this close to freezing to death, then: hot and sour shrimp noodle soup! Huge bowl, and spicy! It’s pan-Asian, noodle-centric fare, mostly rice noodles, but some egg, and buckwheat. Warm, dry atmosphere.


Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m.

1790 Haight, SF

(415) 387-6366

Takeout available

Beer, wine, sake, and specialties