Under the skin

Cactus Taqueria


CHEAP EATS To be honest (which is one of my two favorite ways to be) ... I never very much liked ratatouille, or rat-a-tat-tat-ouille, as I have sometimes called it, to be difficult. Nothing against eggplant. It's just that there are, at any given time, 9,999 other things I'd rather be putting in my mouth, at least one of which, at any given time, is a whole roasted chicken rubbed with black pepper and garlic, strips of bacon stuffed under the skin.

The only reason I mention ratatouille is because there's a movie that, like most movies, I never saw. Called Ratatouille. But I don't much go for ratatouille, so why would I want it in italics, with a capital R?

Plus I am the least movied person alive. That's why I so seldom know what anyone's talking about. I do see movies, occasionally, but only as a vehicle for popcorn. Home or away, I pop my own. Not that I can't afford movie theater popcorn; I just like mine better. As it turns out I — famed appreciator of Two-Buck Chuck and Dollar-a-Thing Chinese fast food — am a popcorn snob.

I get my kernels at Rainbow Grocery, so we're talking organic, free-range, home-schooled, non-HMO, white corn popcorn. And, in one of those cool turnabouts that makes life soupy and worth living, it's cheaper than Orville fucking Redenbacher and Jolly goddamn Time. Oh, and every kernel pops — for real, Orville. I can prove this in a court of law. I know how much oil to use, so the salt sticks too. No butter. Just salt.

People are always almost beating me up in bars. And not for the normal reasons, either. Most recently it was a matter of my not having seen Ratatouille, the movie. I forget who it was, but it wasn't the one person in the world who'd have "probable cause" for beating me up in bars for not seeing Ratatouille — the badass biker babe I know who actually worked on that film.

Whoever it was, they were berating, abusing, and downright poking me over never having seen Ratatouille. I didn't dream this. I know it wasn't a dream or else it would have been the badass biker babe.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: no butter? Did you just say no butter on your popcorn? You, Chicken Farmer? Butterer of everything, singer of songs about butter, and placer of bacon under chicken skin? No butter on your popcorn?

Well, first let me say that it was Crawdad's idea to put bacon under the chicken skin. I was 100 percent behind the idea, yes. But ultimately I was, like so many ruiners of life and meals before me, "only following orders." It was her kitchen.

We both knew that the bacon stuffed under the skin and into the cavity would never get crisp, nor exactly palatable to most palates, save mine and maybe the dog's. But I figured, well, we could always put more strips of bacon on the outside of the bird. To eat! The bacon-inside idea, I imagined, would lasso all sorts of holy cows at the dinner table. It would melt into the meat, and leave an extra layer of pretty pure fat under the skin, essentially turning chicken into duck, and consequently turning us, me and Crawdad, into Nobel lariats.

There's a word for this. It's either hubris, dumbass, or joie de vivre ... depending where you come from and what kind of mood you're in.

Speaking of Frenchness, I borrowed Ratatouille from Crawdad that night — something to watch with my bedtime popcorn when I got home.

Got home, popped my corn, salt, no butter, opened the box ...

No disc. No Ratatouille. Still going to get beat up in bars, etc. Except: the following night, last night, at Yo-Yo's, cat-sitting, out of pure boredom, I swear, I touched the "open" button on her DVD player. I'd already scanned her shelves, nothing I wanted to see.

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