Pub date March 5, 2008
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS I see flowers very differently. Not because I’m a woman now, or a softy, or insane, or even a chicken farmer. It’s a kid thing. I learned it from little Clara de la Cooter, who bonked into the world a year ago and very quickly became my new favorite person in it.

Probably not a lot of people get to babysit their ex’s kids. So I’m lucky in that sense, and so is Clara. She’s a passionate eater — I daresay a budding foodie. Her favorite food so far is eggs. I’m just saying …

It’s not hard to imagine who her favorite auntie will be, I’m saying.

Today I saw an ad on the side of a truck that said, "Just the freshest eggs you will ever eat." I forget the brand, but if its slogan is true, then I highly recommend it. Its eggs will be sold not by the carton but by the chicken. Yo, I’ve held warm ones in my hands on cold days between the nest and the skillet. I’ve had to postpone lunch until almost dinnertime because somebody was all stopped up.

And the boys who I’ve dated have not tended to bring flowers. But that’s OK, because most of them never knew they were dating me. I like to think of Clara de la Cooter’s first date. Some awkward, googly kid hands her a flower and she laughs.

"What?" they say, offended.

But if they knew her now, they would know better. The girl just cracks up at the sight of flowers. That’s all. For some reason they are the funniest thing in the world to her. They’re hilarious. She points and giggles, and she laughs her head off. And I think that’s beautiful. More beautiful than I used to think flowers were.

I’m inspired. I want to laugh at flowers too, and I think there’s a chance I might learn to. Yesterday we took two walks together. It’s spring. It’s Berkeley. I held her in bushes and she kicked her legs and squealed with pleasure, rattling the leaves and branches. I pushed her stroller right up into pink ones, purple ones, white ones, yellow ones, and she pointed and laughed and touched and tugged. That she also tried to eat them goes without saying, don’t you think?

Under a lemon tree I wheelied the stroller back so she could look straight up into it. The tree was loaded, and she lost it. She busted a gut. All that yellow, it was early Woody Allen to her. If she hadn’t been so strapped in, she’d have been rolling on the sidewalk.

I want this. I want one. And that alternative-weekly groan you’re hearing is all my old friends, because they know how I used to be. And people tend to expect you to stay the same. Especially those who love you most.

Which reminds me that one day Clara will not be so tickled by flowers, or not in the same way. Maybe she’ll have allergies. I had a fantasy, under the lemon tree with her, that I would live to be 84, and that she would ask me, hopefully over dinner, what she was like when she was one.

Like I started asking my own parents, and at least one of my aunts, a couple years ago. They didn’t seem to know much, maybe because I was 1 of 11. Or they forgot. Which … I don’t have the world’s best memory myself. Already. What I will have is an excessively creased and yellow newspaper clipping in my apron pocket, where I’ve been keeping it for 40 years, just in case. "You found flowers very funny," it will say. And: "We laughed till we cried."

Making limeade out of lemons is my motto in life. This was someone else’s tree, of course, but I picked a small, hard one and put it in Clara’s little hand, unwashed, let her gum and suck it. And a couple of sidewalk squares later I saw, and picked, one tiny wild strawberry, the size of a pea. This I put in her other hand, knowing she’d eat it. And that it might have been sprayed, or peed on by a dog.

My new favorite restaurant is one of my old favorite restaurants, but I never told you. It’s the 55-year-old Cinderella Russian Bakery in the Richmond, where I refueled with my soccer buds recently and dripped sweat and blood (from my nose) onto stuffed cabbages, garlicky potatoes, homemade bread, and dill in general. Wow! I think my mates were looking for more like, you know, breakfast, but for my money this is just the thing.


435 Balboa, SF

(415) 751-9690

Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.

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