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


CHEAP EATS "Well, sweetie, what did you expect?" my mother said after I came home crying from the beating I took for peeing on my kindergarten teacher’s melted dog. "You can’t piddle a puddle of poodle without getting paddled!"


Oh, Christ. You’re not buying it, are you?

I know because ever since my punch line and I were so heartwarmingly reunited, I’ve been telling that joke — the joke I wrote — to everyone I know, and a lot of people I don’t. The idea: to grind it like so much Cheetos dust into the very fabric of American consciousness, in case I forget again.

The problem: it ain’t funny.

Nobody’s buying it, and the blank stares and exaggerated death bed groans are starting to hurt. Real bad. I literally have gone door-to-door, trying to sell this joke like vacuum cleaners or life insurance, and I have taken a figurative beating. You can’t peddle a puddle of piddled poodle without being paddled, either.

But I mentioned spaghetti-cue. This was a couple weeks ago, and not that anyone’s necessarily wondering, but … it didn’t work. Nothing does the first time you try it. I just don’t want to rule out the possibility that someone, somewhere has better culinary instincts than I do. Far-fetched as that might seem.

I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being immodest. Barbecued pasta is the best idea ever. It just doesn’t work. Key word (only I didn’t say it yet): yet.

And I might yet be the best comedienne ever, even though my first-ever joke kinda shat the bed.

Take the small bright dots that sunlight leaves on a countertop, slanting through the kitchen window, then through a cheese grater, still somewhat carroty from last night’s salad. You see? Those dots, those slanty, imperfect rows and columns. Why do people still sometimes believe in things?

That’s a stupid question. Let me rephrase it: why would anyone wash their dishes at night when they could leave them ’til morning? When the circus of sunlight filtering through a carrot-crusted cheese grater might change the color of your day …

Or turn you into a poet. (Yet.)

Well, for starters, since answering my own rhetorical questions seems to be one of my specialties, maybe your kitchen window faces west. Or north. Life is hard. I could be terrified right now. Instead, I am casually digesting my lunch, which is pretty easy work considering I spilled all but about two spoonfuls of it all over my shirt, lap, and bare feet. Green salsa, homemade chicken soup … I give new meaning to the phrase, "Dinner’s on me!"

Grandma Leone baked the meat for her meat sauce in the oven. I’m not a cook (yet), but I guess that’s how you do it. Key word: you. You bake the pork bones, the oxtails, the ribs, whatever, transfer it grease and all to a sauce pan, garlic, tomatoes, and leave ‘er be.

That’s what you do. I do the same thing, only I cook the meat in a wood stove with smoldering applewood. And that’s how to make spaghetti-cue. Which doesn’t work.

But don’t forget that barbecued eggs didn’t work either until the fourth or fifth try, and now they are generally considered (by four or five people) to be the best thing since cinnamon-swirl raisin bread.

I’m not being immodest. I’m just spinning you in circles. After we pick up speed, I’m going to let go and you’ll be on your own, sailing over tent tops and parked cars, every bit as dizzy as me.


My new favorite restaurant is La Piñata. There are six of them around the Bay Area, but the one I’ve been to is in Alameda. Sockywonk’s been talking this place up for a long time. Chicken soup, she says. Guacamole. We got both those things. And carnitas, beans, rice, tortillas, and of course plenty of fresh, warm tortilla chips and salsa. All good. But the soup … the broth really was something special. I might have dreamed it, but I think there was a tall frosty glass of fresh-squeezed limeade somewhere in the picture, too.


1440 Park, Alameda

(510) 769-9110

Daily, 7 a.m.–3 a.m.

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