CHEAP EATS To a lover, love is bigger than anything, including reality, including practicality, reason, distance, sense, and in many cases, cornbread. So when a lover speaks to a lover of "the reality of," you know, "the situation" … you might understand or even agree, but afterward you will need to put a sweater on.
Reality checks, like hip checks, send you. What can you do but regain your skates and glide along?
What I meant to say about Brick Pig’s barbecue is: yum. Well, like a lotta barbecue, it’s inconsistent. Both times the brisket was great. But the pork ribs wavered from bone to bone. One would be tough and dry, another just fine, and anothernother fantastic.
Same with the beans: first time, great. Second time overly mustarded and therefore not so great.
What was consistent was the sauce. Get hot, you’ll be fine, and it’s excellent. And the brisket. And the place, which is small and perfectly atmospheric, with faux brick wallpaper and a couple of small tables for eater-inners.
How I found it was, well, I already knew about it for a while, because I would always see it after I’d just stopped at Flint’s for barbecue on my way to band practice. And I would always make a mental note, driving by, to check out Brick Pig next time. But I’m not known for my mentality, where barbecue is concerned. It’s more like an animal thing, so, so long as Flint’s entered my field of vision first …
Well, I don’t live in the North Bay anymore. I live in Oakland, meaning I have to drive up Shattuck to get to Flint’s, meaning I now see Brick Pig first. Still, when my new neighbor Lennie asked me where to get barbecue, I said, out of habit, "Flint’s." And then I went to work, which in this case was cooking dinner for the kids downstairs.
Lennie peaked her head in a little later and said, "We’re going to Brick Pig’s. Want us to bring you anything?"
I wasn’t hurt they weren’t taking my advice. I was hurt because I was on duty and would not be able to join them. "No thanks," I said, stirring whatever was cooking. "But if you have any leftovers … "
You don’t have to know me long to know me. She finished my thought, or rather, perfected it. "We’ll save you some," she said.
And she called while the kids were in the bathtub. They’d saved me some. I would only have to run across the street and back, but if anybody drowned or anything on my watch, I knew I would never be able to enjoy barbecue ever again. I decided to play it safe. I said I’d come by once the kids were sleeping.
So story time was hard. I kept losing the thread, and mixing metaphors. My point-of-view character accidentally died, very near the beginning, and then, because I’d stopped talking, perplexed, the kids took over. Once they start telling the stories, forget it. You may as well put on a pot of coffee and light them each a cigarette. They’re that talented.
Meaning my first taste of Brick Pig barbecue was cold and crusty by the time I got to it, but still: I licked the plastic clean. For my second taste, I took the childerns with me, and Lennie took hers, and that equals four childerns. Ma and Pa Brick House were happy to see everyone, at first, and broke out games and puzzles for the little ‘uns while they put our to-go order together.
Kids aren’t known for tranquility. They’re cute, as a rule, but peace is not their strong suit.
By the time we left, of course, Ma Brick House was singing a different tune. The lyrics were, "You know, you can call your order in, next time."
That was the time of the over-mustarded beans and pork-related inconsistency problems. As testament to the resilience and/or forgetfulness of adults, the next time I went, which was just a couple weeks later, first stop back from Berlin, Ma House remembered me and asked where my kids were. She said I shoulda brought them in with me.
I said, "I don’t have kids."
BRICK PIG’S HOUSE
Tue.Sat.: noon8 p.m.
5973 Shattuck, Oakl.
L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.