Buttered up

Pub date June 30, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS First I want to say that, in spite of everything, there is no danger of me not coming back. That sentence is dedicated to Jennifer and all my other friends, moms, and childrens. Yes, I am having the zeit of my leben, but the restaurants here in Berlin charge extra to put butter on your bread. Ergo …

At the top of my list of Things To Do upon repatriation: invent a purse with a small, stick-o’-butter shaped cooler in the bottom of it.

Then: who knows?

Now I want to tell you about my love. It’s not going to be easy, because there’s a language barrier. Between me and him, between me and my heart, his and his … I am studying German. It’s like: I want there to be more ways to not be able to express myself. I want to be bilingually speechless. If possible, I would like to be incoherent in even more than two languages.

For example, he’s French. Of which I know merde.

The language of love is easy when you’re in it. You want to say everything in the world, but don’t have to say anything at all. Maybe just each other’s names, half-whispered, half-begged in the half-dark. And his does sound pretty dang pretty this way, you should hear me:

"Fabien," I say.

He says, "Chicken Farmer."

In candlelight he looks a little like David Bowie, only with even happier eyes and way better lyrics. A smile that would melt Gary, Indiana. We do this, the looking and laughing, sometimes even crying, and very very often other things. And occasionally there’s the outside world, and, you know: beer. Coffee. We walk on wind and raindrops, and kiss on streetcorners, intoxicated and oblivious. Many times have we been pert near creamed by rent-a-bikes.

And tonight when I see him, he has promised to massage my back with butter. At least I think that’s what he said.

Berlin has outdoor Ping-Pong tables like we have basketball courts, so we play a lot of Ping-Pong. He’s good. So far we have not kept score. I can count to 21 in four languages, none of which are French. But we don’t keep score, and that, not French, is the language of love.

The language we have most in common, of course, is this ‘un. Yo, the one I writeth. So that’s how we conduct our truly important business, like ordering lunch and deciding who gets to sit at which end of the bathtub. Then comes German. We can both say some things in Italian, too, like ti voglio bene and la bella luna. I should probably know more Spanish than uno dos tres, and so on, but all else I have retained from two years of college classes and 20 years of exposure is "Me llamo Miguel Gomez," which is a patent untruth, so I rarely if ever find occasion to use it.

Although … dada does go well with googoo and gaga. In case you were wondering.

Everyone said, "Don’t get your hopes up about the eats in Germany." I’m glad they said this because one of my favorite things in life is being taken completely by surprise. With my Frenchy, the surprise was not complete. I mean, we met months ago in person, if not exactly by name, and although I couldn’t have possibly imagined the depth or height or width or the dizzying scent of it, I guess I kinda knew I’d stepped in something wonderful.

But the news news here is the food, and the Ping-Pong. Who knew, and knew, respectively? And I don’t just mean currywurst. There’s great Turkish, some good Asian … I’ve had excellent brick-oven pizza, some wonderful pasta dishes, spätzle of course, and the one night I cooked in, guess what I cooked: pork liver!

You never even hear of pork liver in the states. I was just wondering about this, and then: boom, Berlin! Saw it on a menu, got all excited, ate somewhere else, checked the meat counter at the grocery …

So, I’m just saying. Trying to say. There’s the butter thing, or maybe truthfully it’s more than that. More like the butter "situation," or "crisis." Oh, and one other flavor missing, but it’s a biggie: barbecue. That might help me get onto three more airplanes, in spite of everything, oh merde merde merde, because I just discovered this one before I left, and do sorta somewhat miss it. My new favorite restaurant:


Tue.–Sat., noon–8 p.m.

5973 Shattuck, Oakl.

(510) 923-1789

No alcohol