Identity crisis

Pub date September 3, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS My answering machine almost always has a message on it for Brent Casserole. It’s another machine, talking to my machine, and it says, in its robotically female voice, "This is a message for … Brent Casserole. If this is not … Brent Casserole … please press two now."

Clearly, I am not … Brent Casserole. Even I know this. And so the first time I heard it I picked up my phone and started pressing 2 2 2 2 2. Five times because nothing was happening. Nothing was happening because, of course, as anyone but me could have told me, the message had been recorded hours ago, when I was not there. It was way too late to press two. I had missed my chance to not be … Brent Casserole … so the machine on my machine just kept treating me as if I were … Brent Casserole.

There are problems associated with being an open-minded, free-thinking, and completely unhinged chicken farmer. The one I’m thinking of is that you can only be called … Brent Casserole … so many times before you start to wonder if, by some odd turn of events, you are … Brent Casserole.

I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror looking for clues, some little crack in the glass of my perception, something I’d missed. It’s not like me to owe anyone money. Brent Casserole does, according to the rest of the message on my answering machine, and he had better call the following number or else (and this part is only implied) he’s going to have his head bashed in by robots.

Kind of like mine.

My therapist can’t see me until October. I already tried the chickens, but they were no help. My friends all have kids, and, therefore, anxiety disorders of their own. Weirdo the Cat just looks at me as if I were … Brent Casserole? She’s so hard to read sometimes.

That leaves you. I’m going to have to work it out with you, dear reader, because you’re all I have left. Sorry. And we’re going to have to move pretty fast because, on my way to work this afternoon, I need to stop at the feed store and pick up a live chicken for my employer. Then I need to stop at the junkyard that has my stupid Saturn and wrestle either the car or a check for $1,650 away from them. Then I have to stop at the grocery store and buy ingredients for jambalaya because that’s my job du jour, changing diapers and making jambalaya — which I’ve never made before but people seem to think I can because I used to be married to someone named Crawdad.

I have no idea how to make jambalaya, so add that to my list: learn to make jambalaya. And then, while it’s gurgling on the back burner and the baby (oh please oh please oh please) is napping, I need to figure out a 75-word way to say that the worst-ever nightmare taqueria where I had the lousiest burrito ever made in the state of California is actually my new favorite restaurant.

Which …

Hey, wait a minute! Do you see what I did? By accident, by reducing myself to, essentially, the minutia of my day, a grocery list, a chicken farmerly litany of Leoneness, or impending failures, I have established beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not, no matter how many machines might think otherwise … whatshisname. There can only be one person with that exact list of Things To Do: Me!

So the moral is that we are what we eat, and buy, and cook, and do, and in my case write, and we are not what we owe. Or even what someone else owes. It doesn’t matter how a machine on your answering machine addresses you: we are the sticks, the stones, and the bones. Not the names.

And you say, "Duh."

And I say, That’s easy for you to say. You’re … Brent Casserole. Hit the delete key if you’re not.


My new favorite restaurant is La Villa Taqueria in Berkeley, on the strength of how bad they are. Unlike hippies, I enjoy a little hatred and anger in my mix, and La Villa deserves credit for making easily the worst burrito I’ve ever eaten. Crusty, dry carnitas, bland beans, and the lamest pico de gallo ever to tap my tongue. At least it only took a half hour to slap this crap together! My friend was next door deciding on and buying a piano, and she got done first.


2434 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley


Daily: 7 a.m.–8 p.m.

No alcohol